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Less strict rules for filing divisional European patent applications

Effective 1 April 2014, it will be possible again to file divisional applications as long as the parent application is still pending. That announcement has recently been made by the European Patent Office (EPO).

This implies that the shorter term for filing divisionals that was introduced in 2010 will be abolished. That shorter term meant that, in principle, filing divisionals was possible within 24 months of the first substantive examination of the application by the EPO after the novelty search report.

The new rules apply to all divisional applications that will be filed from 1 April 2014. This means it will also be possible again to file divisionals for applications of which the shorter term has already expired, provided the application is still pending then. That’s why for some applications it may be desirable to prolong the procedure up to grant as long as possible.

On the other hand, an extra fee will be introduced to discourage divisionals being used, in turn, as a basis for a further divisional. It is considered undesirable for applications to generate divisional applications in turn generating further divisional applications, thus creating multiple generations of divisional applications.

The fee runs up for each generation of divisional applications, up to a defined maximum. The details of this fee are made public later.