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The Select Committee of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Office (EPO) endorsed on 24 June the so-called True Top 4 proposal tabled by the EPO on renewal fees applicable to the unitary patent. At the meeting held in Munich by the EPO and the EU Member States participating in the unitary patent, the proposal was adopted with the required majority. 18 Member States voted in favour with 5 against and two abstaining.
We reported here in March that two proposals had initially been tabled, called Top 4 and Top 5 because the level of renewal fee for years 10 to 20 mirrored the level payable in either the top 4 EU states or the top 5 EU states. Both of those suggestions were criticised as being too expensive for years before year 10. As such the True Top 4 proposal was formulated to exactly match the level of renewal fees payable in the top 4 EU states for the whole life of the patent. The reduction compared to Top 4 can be seen in the graph below, which also plots the EPO 's own internal renewal fees that are payable while an EP application is pending.
As can be seen from the graph, the renewal fees payable on a granted patent are significantly lower than the renewal fees payable on a pending European application for years 3 to 10. They cross over at around year 11 and patents become significantly more expensive than applications after year 13. For applicants wishing to have granted rights within 10 years of applying, an overall cost saving can be achieved by reaching grant as soon as possible to take advantage of the lower overall renewal fees for granted patents up to year 11. Accelerated prosecution at the EPO may thus become more popular than it is at present.
The whole package of implementing measures for the unitary patent is expected to be adopted in the autumn after a decision on the distribution key of income from the renewal fees (to the EPO and Member States).