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EPO to Increase Official Fees from 1 April 2024

The European Patent Office (EPO) has announced that the official fees charged for European patent applications will be increasing from 1 April 2024. More details of the fee increases can be found here and here.

Most of the official fees are increasing by about 3.5-4.5 %, though some fees (such as the filing and excess pages fees, and the opposition and appeal fees) remain unchanged. The EPO has also abolished a number of more minor fees, notably the fee for maintenance of a patent following opposition proceedings.

The EPO is increasing the 3rd and 4th year renewal fees by around 30%, and the 5th year renewal fee by 8%. We understand that the significant increase to these renewal fees is intended to stabilise the EPO’s income from renewal fees, which had suffered a decline over the last few years due to shorter average pendency of European patent applications (and renewal fees not being payable at the EPO after grant).

A final change which may be of interest to some users of the European patent system is the introduction of a new regime of fee reductions for microenterprises, natural persons, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations. In particular, a 30% reduction in the filing, search, examination, designation, grant and renewal fees will in principle be available to such applicants, provided that they declare that they meet the qualification criteria. This reduction can be combined with existing language-based reductions available to applicants domiciled in countries which do not have English, French or German as an official language.

The qualification criteria stipulate that the reduction is not available to applicants if they have filed five or more European patent applications within the last five years. The EPO states that “the cap on eligible applications is designed to ensure that only those applicants with little or no experience of the European patent system benefit from the support measures”. In view of this cap and the administrative burden of ensuring ongoing eligibility for reduced fees, we expect that in practice many applicants will be able to benefit only temporarily from this new regime in its current form. Moreover, although incorrectly paying a reduced fee under the new regime should not generally prove fatal to the patent application, the cost of rectifying errors or misassumptions could outweigh any benefit previously obtained.

In view of the official fee increases coming into force on 1 April 2024, if you would like to file a new case early, or make a fee payment early on an existing case, in order to secure the current lower rates, please get in touch with your usual J A Kemp contact.