European Patent Office (EPO) to enhance the search and prosecution system for Euro-PCT applications

The EPO has indicated that amended Rule 164 EPC will come into force on 1.11.2014. The draft amended Rule gives an opportunity to pay further search fees on a PCT-derived application during the European regional phase; this will be useful when unity is considered to be lacking and the claims of interest to the applicant have not been searched.  There will also be flexibility for the applicant to continue prosecution by selecting from any of the searched claims.  Regardless of whether the EPO acts as the Searching Authority in the International Phase, there will be freedom in the European regional phase for applicants to direct their application to the claims of choice. These changes will hopefully prevent the need for filing at least some divisional applications that might otherwise be necessary for the applicant under the current procedure.

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