The EPO has launched a new scheme called "Early certainty from search" that is intended to improve legal certainty in the European patent system. The EPO's announcement of this scheme indicates how some applications will be prioritised over others. In particular, cases where examination has already started will be prioritised over newly filed cases and cases where third party observations are filed by an identifiable person (i.e. not anonymously) will have examination expedited under the PACE procedure. This last point means that it is now possible for third parties to accelerate the prosecution of patent applications filed by others. This introduces a new tactical option for third parties.
In addition, the EPO will seek to issue a search report within six months of filing and will prioritise opposition cases over pending patent applications.
The EPO's announcement can be found here.