The duration of 12 years is considered to be a substantial procedural violation justifying the reimbursement of the appeal fee. According to point 2 of the reasons:
In the opinion of the Board, the delays cannot be justified by the particular circumstances of the case. The duration of the first-instance proceedings of more than twelve years after entry into the European phase must be regarded as excessive. According to decision T 315/03, even a shorter delay of ten years in a much more complex opposition case amounted to a procedural violation (points 15.5 and 15.6 of decision T 315/03 which was published only in an abbreviated form in OJ EPO 2006, 15). The Board in that case found that such a delay was not "within a reasonable time" and therefore infringed Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).This is reasoning is remarkable because it is one of the rare cases referring to the ECHR and the delay has some similarities with the purported delay of up to 15 years for labour cases against the EPO handled by the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation (ILOAT).
The additional delay of 5 years for the 2nd instance is not mentioned or justified. Rather, the case is remitted to the examining division, not without noting that "... the Examining Division should expedite its final examination of the remitted case."
Given that the Patent - once Granted - will expire in May this year, the reimbursement of the appeal fee will be a poor consolation for the applicant.