28 February 2024

EPO announces new fee reduction scheme for infrequent users

From 1 April 2024, the European Patent Office (EPO) will introduce new 30% fee discounts designed to benefit infrequent users of the European patent system. The scheme aims to improve the accessibility of the European patent system to smaller European entities, thereby supporting their innovation.

Which fees are set to be discounted?

  • Filing fee (including additional page fees);
  • Search fee;
  • Examination fee;
  • Designation fee;
  • Grant fee; and
  • Renewal fees.

Who qualifies for the discount?

The new reductions mentioned above apply to all eligible applicants, irrespective of their nationality or domicile.

The following conditions must be met for an applicant to be eligible for the discount:

1.  The applicant must be a:

  • microenterprise (defined here as enterprises with fewer than 10 employees and a turnover and/or balance sheet not exceeding EUR 2 million),
  • natural person,
  • non-profit organisation,
  • university or
  • public research organisation;

2. The applicant must have filed no more than five European patent applications or Euro-PCT applications within a period of five years preceding either the date of filing the European patent application or the date of entry into the European regional phase of the Euro-PCT application concerned; and

3. Where there are multiple applicants for the patent application, all of the applicants must fulfil requirements (1) and (2). If an application is transferred, the fee reduction will only  remain in place if the new applicant is also eligible.

Language-related discount schemes remain unchanged

Existing language-related fee reductions (Article 14(4) and Rules 7a(1) and (2) EPC) remain unchanged.

Small entities, which have their residence or principal place of business in an EPC contracting state and which file a European patent application or a request for examination in an official language of that state other than English, French or German, are applicable for language-related fee reductions.

Combining micro-entity- and language-related schemes together

Beneficially, if an applicant is eligible for both micro-entity- and language-related schemes, it is possible to use both schemes together and achieve a greater overall discount.

Obtaining discounts – a word of warning

Applicants can benefit from the language- and/or micro-entity-related discounts via self-declaration. However, any change in status of an entity must be notified to the EPO. The onus for doing this is on the applicant(s).

The EPO will police this by carrying out random checks regarding the status of applicants. If these checks give rise to reasonable doubts as to the veracity of a declaration, the EPO may request appropriate evidence.

If an appropriate declaration is missing or where a declaration concerning the applicant’s status is incorrect, the fee will be deemed not to have been paid and the application will be deemed withdrawn.

Loss of rights may be remedied by applying for further processing or re-establishment of rights. Alternatively, an applicant can request a decision on the noting of loss of rights if they consider the EPO’s finding to be inaccurate.

Using the new system is not therefore risk free. Each applicant will need to weigh up the pros and cons of using the new system in their own unique circumstances.

Should you wish to discuss this further, please get in contact with one of our team of experts.