The European Patent Office (EPO) has announced an increase in the official fees charged for European patent applications from 1 April 2024.  It is not all bad news though, as the EPO is implementing a new fee reduction scheme for qualifying micro-entities from the same date.  Some administrative fees will also be waived in future if the relevant requests are filed using the EPO’s online MyEPO portal.

New fees

Whilst some fees are being held at current rates, the majority of official fees are increasing by approximately 4%.  There are however more significant increases in some renewal fees, with the third, fourth and fifth year renewal fees increasing by approximately 30%, 28% and 8% respectively.  The sixth year renewal fee is actually decreasing slightly, there are modest increases in the seventh to ninth year fees and the renewal fees for the tenth year onwards are not changing.

The additional filing fee for filing a divisional application is not changing, but the abovementioned increase in renewal fees will make filing a divisional application at the EPO significantly more expensive after 1 April due to the requirement that all back renewal fees must be paid when filing a new divisional application.

Full details of the new fees may be found on the EPO’s website here (see Article 2 of the Decision): new fees.

Dehns will be closed for Easter from 29 March to 1 April 2024 inclusive.  We will endeavour to pay any relevant official fees at the current rates provided we receive your instructions in good time before 28 March 2024.  If you require any advice on how the new fees will affect your applications, please contact us.

New fee reduction scheme for micro-entities

The EPO currently offers a 30% reduction of certain official fees for small entities that have their residence or principal place of business in an EPC contracting state and which file a European Patent Application or request for examination in an official language of that state other than English, French or German.

From 1 April 2024, a new fee reduction scheme will be available to micro-entities, irrespective of their nationality or domicile.  Qualifying entities will be entitled to the same 30% fee reduction as available under the current small entity scheme.

Micro-entities are defined according to Article 2 of the European Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC of 6 May 2023, Commission Recommendation as enterprises which employ fewer than 10 persons and whose annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total does not exceed EUR 2 million.  Natural persons, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations will also potentially be entitled to the micro-entity fee reduction.

There is an important additional requirement that must be taken into consideration, namely that the applicant must have filed fewer than five European applications in the preceding five years in order to qualify for the fee reduction.  According to the EPO, this “cap” is to ensure that only applicants with little or no experience of the European Patent system benefit from the offered fee reduction.  The EPO will check the cap on applications per applicant when eligibility for the fee reduction is claimed for an application, and will request payment at the full rate if the cap has been exceeded.

To benefit from the fee reduction, applicants must expressly declare their status at the latest when the fee concerned is to be paid.  If there is more than one applicant, each applicant must qualify as a micro-entity in order to benefit from the offered fee reduction.

Any changes in status of an applicant which has requested a reduction of fees must be notified to the EPO and future fees paid at the rate appropriate to the new status.

An incorrect declaration of status will result in any reduced fee being deemed not to have been validly paid and the application will be deemed to be withdrawn.  Although further processing will be available to then allow payment of the fee at the correct rate, this will incur a 50% surcharge on the fee in question.  An incorrect status declaration will therefore end up being significantly more costly than paying the fees at the full rate in the first place.

If you require any advice on whether you may be entitled to a fee reduction under the new scheme, please contact us.