Every year, the European Patent Office issues next year’s official holidays affecting their four ‘EPO Filing Offices’. Those holidays are, just like weekends, essential for calculating EPO Time Limits in proceedings before the European Patent Office. With the tool above, you can click through the official list of EPO Holidays for the years 2023 and 2024.
What is the European Patent Office EPO?
The EPO, short for ‘European Patent Organization’ or ‘European Patent Office’, is the authority governing the European Patent Convention, EPC. Being one of the world’s largest patent offices, the EPO is not bound by a country nor by a political union. In fact, the EPO is a supra-national institution hovering above the European continent. Whilst 27 countries are currently in the European Union, 39 countries are in the European Patent Convention. Feel free to visit our EPC jurisdiction section for more information.
What are EPO Holidays and why are they important?
The European Patent Office EPO has many representations across Europe. Four of these are so-called EPO Filing Offices, at which the public can file documents for patent matters. Those EPO Filing Offices are:
- Munich, Germany,
- Berlin, Germany,
- De Hague, Netherlands, and
- Vienna, Austria.
Like normal businesses, EPO Filing Offices are affected by federal and state holidays. Throughout the year, the EPO may be closed between holidays or weekends, so-called Bridging Days. Those are also EPO Holidays. So far, so expected.
The importance of the EPO Holiday lies in the carry-over effect it has on other EPO Filing Offices. Not in terms of actual vacation time (I assume colleagues from unaffected EPO Filing Offices will have to show up for work), but in terms of EPO Time Limit extensions.
To put it simply:
If at least one EPO Filing Office is on holiday, all EPO Time Limits expiring on this day are extended.
Logically, the extension stretches to the next day at which all EPO Filing Offices are capable of receiving filed documents. Capable of receiving filed documents means being able to receiving documents electronically and via ordinary mail.
So, regardless of whether one EPO Filing Office’s business hours are actually affected by a holiday of another EPO Filing Office, all EPO Time Limits expiring on such a day are extended.
The legal basis for practice can be found in Rule 134(1) EPC:
(1) If a period expires on a day on which one of the filing offices of the European Patent Office under Rule 35, paragraph 1, is not open for receipt of documents or on which, for reasons other than those referred to in Paragraph 2, mail is not delivered there, the period shall extend to the first day thereafter on which all the filing offices are open for receipt of documents and on which mail is delivered. The first sentence shall apply mutatis mutandis if documents filed by one of the means of electronic communication permitted by the President of the European Patent Office under Rule 2, paragraph 1, cannot be received.
Rule 134 EPC also defines that the same principle applies to additional scenarios where one of the EPO Filing Offices is incapable of receiving mail, be it by post mail or electronically. A trivial example are weekends. All EPO Filing Offices are closed and all time limits expiring on Saturdays or Sundays are extended to the next day at which all EPO Filing Offices are open. On a day at which one or more EPO Filing Offices might be incapable of receiving mail due to an exceptional circumstance such as a collapse in the IT system, extreme weather conditions, or the like.
Wrapping it up: EPO Closing Days
EPO Closing Days cover all days where at least one EPO Filing Office is closed. Following what was discussed above, those can come in three categories:
- Weekends, all EPO Filing Offices
- EPO Holidays, at least one EPO Filing Office, and
- Days where filings are interrupted, at least one EPO Filing Office
All three EPO Closing Day categories have the same effect on EPO Time Limits. All time limits expiring on an EPO Closing Day are extended to the next day where all EPO Filing Offices are open for receiving filed documents by electronic mail and by ordinary mail.
EPO Time Limits: Housekeeping
What is an EPO Time Limit?
EPO Time Limits are all time limits pertaining to a proceeding before the EPO. EPO Time Limits can have many different origins and can even be combinations of separate time limits. Some are defined in the Articles of the EPC, others in the Rules of the EPC. Some EPO time limits stem from international or national treaties, laws, or the like. The President of the EPO and/or EPO staff can also define time limits that aren’t explicitly defined elsewhere.
When exactly will a EPO Time Limit expire?
The calculation of an EPO Time Limit depends on the underlying procedural matter(s). In any case, all EPO Time Limits expire on their last day, which is also called expiration date, or ending date. An EPO Time Limit is met, when the action has a time stamp of no later than the expiration date. That means before Midnight of the expiration date. The local time of the EPO is decisive.
What is the EPO Local Time?
The EPO local time is the local time of Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland. The EPO local time is changed twice a year; from CET to CEST, and back from CEST to CET.
- Winter time: UTC/GMT +01:00, Central European Time, CET
- Summer time: UTC/GMT +02:00, Central European Summer Time, CEST
The switches between Winter time and Summer time and back happen on the following dates:
Date & Time
|2023||Sun, 26 Mar, 01:00||CET→CEST||1 hour||UTC+2|
|Sun, 29 Oct, 01:00||CEST→CET||-1 hour||UTC+1|
|2024||Sun, 31 Mar, 01:00||CET→CEST||1 hour||UTC+2|
|Sun, 27 Oct, 01:00||CEST→CET||-1 hour||UTC+1|
|2025||Sun, 30 Mar, 01:00||CET→CEST||1 hour||UTC+2|
|Sun, 26 Oct, 01:00||CEST→CET||-1 hour||UTC+1|
|2026||Sun, 29 Mar, 01:00||CET→CEST||1 hour||UTC+2|
|Sun, 25 Oct, 01:00||CEST→CET||-1 hour||UTC+1|
Ready for an Example?
Check out our free EPO Opposition Calculator. It includes Weekends and EPO Holidays in its due date calculation.
Worried about missed EPO Time Limit?
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