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The EPO has announced that, from 1 July 2016, a 100% refund of the examination fee will be available if an application is withdrawn, refused or deemed to be withdrawn before the examining division has started substantive examination. Previously, only a 75% refund was possible under these circumstances. Further, the EPO intends to issue a communication at least two months before the examining division plans to start substantive examination, so that applicants are aware of the deadline by which an application can be withdrawn in order to obtain the 100% refund of the examination fee. This means that applicants will be able to obtain a 100% refund of the examination fee by withdrawing the application up until the date mentioned on the EPO communication.
For applications where substantive examination starts on or after 1 November 2016, a 50% refund of the examination fee will be available if the application is actively withdrawn prior to expiry of the time limit for replying to the first communication from the examining division regarding substantive examination, unless that communication is under Rule 71(3) EPC proposing a text for grant. If the first communication from the examining division regarding substantive examination is under Rule 71(3) EPC, then no refund of the examination fee will be available once the communication has issued (although a 50% refund would have been available in the window between substantive examination commencing and the communication under Rule 71(3) EPC issuing).