The European Patent Office usually restrict the number of independent claims that you can include in your patent application (Rule 43(2) EPC). These rules restrict an applicant to a single independent claim in each category (typically a single method claim and a single independent apparatus claim).
There are some limited exceptions, such the inclusion of separate independent claims for plugs and sockets, different uses of a product or apparatus, or where there are alternative solutions to the same problem. When it is difficult to adequately cover an invention with a single independent claim in one category outside of these exceptions then applicants are faced with the additional costs of filing divisional applications to cover the full scope of their invention.
Practice can vary amongst EPO Examiners when examining applications in the field of distributed computer systems, with some allowing multiple independent claims to cover different parts of a system and others refusing such requests. However, the EPO has clarified its practice in its new Guidelines for Examination (due to come in force in November 2018), especially for applicants with inventions in the field of distributed computing (e.g. cloud computing and blockchain). Therefore, applicants in these technical fields can now clearly cover different aspects or parts of their system with multiple independent claims in the same application. Of course, care should still be take to draft such claims to cover potential infringements where systems are distributed across different geographic locations but the new Guidelines are a welcome clarification and may even extend the scope of protection afforded by a single European patent, without requiring additional filings.
For such distributed CIIs, the claim set may comprise claims directed to each entity of the distributed system and/or to the overall system and the corresponding methods. Such a claim set may be allowable under Rule 43(2)(a) (F-IV, 3.2). Each independent claim must nevertheless fulfil the requirements for patentability, in particular the requirements of Art. 54, Art. 56 and Art. 84. For example, if the invention lies in the implementation of a computer cloud using virtual machines enabling adaptation to workload changes by allocating resources in an automatic manner, a client device accessing the resources of the cloud may already be known in the art. The claim set must also fulfil the requirements of unity.