New report launched: EPO Opposition Trends in the Life Sciences Sector

Our new research has revealed several recent patterns regarding the European Patent Office opposition procedure, particularly in the life science sector.

The report, entitled EPO Opposition Trends in the Life Sciences Sector, is the result of 350 hours of data analysis.

We looked at more than 5,000 opposition cases filed at the European Patent Office over the last ten years, studying the timelines for hundreds of life sciences oppositions. The analysis uncovers a range of previously unidentified relationships and patterns across thousands of life science opposition cases.

Partner Katherine Green, who managed the project, commented:

“The data offer a forensic understanding of the EPO opposition procedure and the nuances that comprise it. Which technical areas attract the most oppositions? How long will opposition proceedings take? Is the EPO’s streamlining initiative working? Which stages of the opposition procedure have been compressed?

“Achieving success in oppositions and appeals at the European Patent Office is critical for any innovation-oriented business seeking commercial advantage and growth. Mewburn Ellis has produced this report to provide our clients with precisely that depth of forensic insight into the EPO opposition process.”

Amongst the key findings:

  • EPO streamlining is on track: Within the life science sector, the EPO’s opposition streamlining initiative is on track to meet its target of 15 months by 2020. The research shows the average time period for the EPO to provide a decision following the filing of an opposition has reduced by 5 months, from 22.1 months in 2015 (pre-streamlining) to 17.1 months in 2018.
  • As a result, the opposition procedure is speeding up, with the time taken for the EPO to issue an invitation for the patentee to respond to an opposition now shortened to less than four weeks. The Summons to oral proceedings is also now being issued around 3 months after the patentee’s response.
  • Extensions of time are harder to secure: Only 34% of requests for an extension of time of the four-month time limit for responding to an opposition are now granted by the EPO for single opponent cases, compared to 96% prior to the streamlining initiative.

Introduced in July 2016, the EPO’s streamlined opposition procedure was designed to simplify opposition proceedings and deliver decisions more quickly, thus providing “early certainty” for third parties.

Partner Emily Hayes who co-authored the report commented:

“We knew extensions of time for the patentee’s response had become much less common following the introduction of the EPO’s streamlining initiative, but wanted to explore whether this was because the EPO was much less willing to allow these requests or because patentees feel it’s no longer worth asking.

“Our analysis showed that it’s both. Not only is the EPO much less likely to allow requests for an extension of time by the patentee, especially for single opponent cases, but patentees are also much less likely to request an extension of time.”

The research has also uncovered new data around the prevalence of multi-party oppositions and identifies 2018’s Top 20 most opposed patents, most opposed companies and most active opponents.

Download a copy of the report here and find out more about the research here.