European Patent Office oppositions are a very powerful way of
litigating newly granted patents. In reality these are pan-European
revocation proceedings, with profound strategic significance for
life sciences companies – this is the only way through which
all national parts of a European patent can be revoked
simultaneously in one set of proceedings. Unsurprisingly, EPO
oppositions are now an almost inevitable feature of the European
life sciences litigation landscape.
In 2015, the EPO saw an increase of 17.6% in the total number of
patents opposed, up to a total of 3,713 patents, with life sciences
patents forming a substantial portion of these. Whilst not at U.S.
litigation levels, this nonetheless starkly demonstrates
oppositions' strategic value in commercial battles between
competitors in Europe. But the EPO opposition process has been a
victim of its own success, attracting adverse judicial criticism
for its lengthy and open-ended process. "Normal" cases
have been taking an average of between four to eight years through
to final determination (including appeals).
The EPO has now announced that from July 1, 2016, post-grant
oppositions will be reformed so that they become significantly
faster and more efficient. The effect of these changes is that in
straightforward cases, the decision in a first instance opposition
will be issued within 15 months from the opposition deadline. To
learn more about these changes, read our client alert,
"The European Patent Office introduces a 'go-faster'
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