Divisional applications for European Patents

The Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation, composed by its contracting states, has agreed to a proposal from the European Patent Office (EPO) to introduce time limits for the filing of divisional applications.

The EPO proposal was found both adequate and appropriate for dealing with the issues currently being tackled by the EPO within its "Raising the bar" project, namely improving overall quality and enhancing legal certainty while ensuring that legitimate rights and expectations are fully served.

Time limits to be introduced for divisional applications

As of 1 April 2010, divisional applications on the applicant's own initiative (so-called voluntary divisional applications) will need to be filed within a period of two years from the first communication by the EPO examining division in respect of the parent (i.e. the previous) or an even earlier (in case of a "chain" of applications) application.

Divisional applications filed as a reaction to a non-unity objection (so-called mandatory divisional applications) will also have to be filed within 24 months from the communication in which the relevant objection is raised by the examining division for the first time.

The current legal framework only requires that the parent application is pending at the time the divisional application is filed.