The Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE) has recently proposed a set of rule changes for Epee bouts only. The changes have not yet been formally voted on by the FIE. If the FIE approves the testing of the rule changes, they will most likely be implemented only on FIE-organized international tournaments for the 2018 season (or later). The United States Fencing Association (USFA) has not yet provided a position on these rule changes, and thus, for the current season, U.S. tournaments are unaffected.
Summary of Proposal
Non-Combativity: Priority is determined at the start of each epee bout (both Pool and Direct Elimination bouts). Non-combativity of 45 seconds results in a point being awarded to the fencer with priority. After each point (including double touches), priority is shifted to the other fencer, with the 45 seconds reset.
DE Breaks: DE bouts are fenced up to 10 minutes with two 60-second rest periods — one break after either fencer hits 5 points, and then a second after either fencer hits 10 points.
The full proposed rules can be found here.
Update on Proposed Rule Changes for Epee Bouts (9/25/2017)
Although we can find no official pronouncements by the FIE yet, it has been reported by several sources that the FIE has pulled the proposed non-combativity rules changes. However, note that those reports do not address what the status is with respect to the second part of the proposed rule changes — Direct Elimination breaks (10 minute bouts, with 2 one minute breaks, with a break after either fencer first reaches 5 points and then after either fencer first reaches 10 points). Presumably, the DE proposed changes have also been rejected, but again, because there are no official announcements yet, we will continue to follow any developments on this matter.