On October 18, 2013, the European Patent Office (EPO) announced that the 2-year deadline for filing voluntary divisional applications is being revised to allow for divisional applications to be filed at any time during the pendency of a parent application. Currently, patent applicants who wish to file a voluntary divisional must do so within 24 months of receiving certain initial EPO communications in a parent case. Applicants can expect to pay progressively higher filing fees for multiple divisional applications. The new rules will go into effect on April 1, 2014. The EPO announcement is available at http://www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2013/20131018.html.
The new EPO rules may be retroactive, i.e., potentially reopening divisional application filing windows that have closed. In anticipation of this change, European patent applicants may wish to identify currently-pending applications where the deadline for filing a voluntary divisional has passed, or will pass before April 1, 2014. If there is interest in filing a divisional application from any of the identified patent applications, applicants may wish to explore options for slowing prosecution, including, e.g., taking available extensions of time.