27. July 2022
EPO NEWS: EPO introduces systematic final search for prior national rights
Prior rights as prior art are limited to European applications in the grant procedure before the EPO. After grant, however, earlier national rights must be taken into account in the validation of the national bundle patent, which is why different claim versions are then possible for the national bundle patent before the substantive examination is completed.
This is of particular importance for the future unitary patent, as only one uniform claim version can exist here. This claim version should therefore also take account of existing earlier rights before grant.
The EPO therefore offers applicants an additional service to help them decide whether to file separate sets of claims. The examining division will search for prior national rights, assess their prima facie relevance and communicate the citations of all prima facie relevant national rights in a notice of intention to grant (Rule 71(3) EPC). On this basis, applicants may assess in detail any national right opposed.