The Administrative Council of the European Patent Office (EPO) recently passed “a new package of rule changes intended to adapt the rules of the European Patent Court (EPC) to the digital age” with the headline change being the abolition of the infamous ‘10-day rule’.
What is the ‘10-day rule’?
More formally set out in Rule 126(2) EPC, the 10-day rule dictates that official communications sent by registered letter from the EPO are deemed to have been delivered to the recipient 10 days after the date shown on the communication, referred to as the ‘notification date’. This is regardless of when they are actually delivered. Deadlines set by the official communication are then calculated from the notification date rather than the date shown on the communication itself.
Why is there a ‘10-day rule’?
The ‘10-day rule’ was relevant in the days when all communications were sent by physical postal delivery. However, with the EPO’s increasing reliance on electronic communications, and the introduction of electronic mailboxes, the 10-day period has been out-dated and unnecessary for some time now.
When is the ‘10-day rule’ changing?
From 1 November 2023 the 10-day-rule will be abolished by the EPO. From this date, all newly issued EPO communications will be deemed to be delivered on the date shown on the communication, and deadlines will therefore be calculated from the date shown on the communication.
In contrast, all communications dated on or before 31 October 2023 will still be deemed to have been received 10 days after the date shown on the communication itself.
What does this mean for patent applicants?
Some firms used to record the 10-day extended date in the past, while others chose to report the period without the 10 days added. This caused some confusion about what the actual deadline was. Now it can be clear that all patent attorneys should be reporting the actual deadline and there are no postal rules causing confusion.