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New: EPO Supports Small Applicants with 30% Discounts

March 2024
EPO Gebührenordnung

The European Patent Office (EPO) has recently announced a significant overhaul of its fee structure, aimed at providing easier access to the European patent system for small enterprises with limited patent experience, and fostering innovation activities. Particularly noteworthy are the new discounts introduced for eligible applicants.

30% Reduction for Microenterprises, Natural Persons, and Academics

Starting April 1, 2024, microenterprises, natural persons, as well as academics can benefit from an additional 30% discount on official fees related to filing and other procedures before the office. This measure aims to facilitate access to the patenting system for those who may have fewer resources available. The discount applies to significant fees such as filing, search, designation, examination, grant, and renewal.

The criteria for availing the 30% reduction are clearly defined: applicants must qualify as microenterprises, natural persons, non-profit organizations, universities, or public research institutions and must have filed fewer than five European patent applications in the last five years. The definition of SMEs and microenterprises is based on a recommendation from the European Commission, which states that these entities employ fewer than ten employees and have an annual turnover or balance sheet total not exceeding €2 million.

It is important to note that this discount also applies to international (PCT) applications entering the European regional phase. This could lead to further reduction in the examination fee for such PCT applications where the international preliminary examination report was prepared by the EPO.

However, it should be noted that if the applicant falsely declares to be eligible for the micro-enterprise support system, an erroneously reduced fee is considered not paid and the application is deemed withdrawn!

Additional Adjustment of Office Fees

At the same time, starting April 1, 2024, the EPO will introduce moderate fee increases, which, however, will remain below the real inflation rate. Most official fees will be increased by approximately 4%. However, the first two annual fees, for the third and fourth years, will see a significant increase of 30%. The rationale behind this is to offset the revenue loss incurred in recent years due to shorter processing times and more efficient examination procedures.

The fee changes are also aimed at promoting the use of the secure, web-based online service “MyEPO Portfolio” by zero-rating certain fees (such as the fee for the registration of assignments). Additionally, the fee system will be simplified by abolishing five rarely used fees.

Given the comprehensive fee changes, there will be no biennial inflation adjustment in 2025, which would normally apply after the regular two-year cycle.

We are eager to see how these measures will impact the patent landscape and innovation activities. Stay tuned for further information on the upcoming changes to the EPO fee system.

Here is the link to the relevant EPO news.

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Dietrich Blumenröhr

Dietrich Blumenröhr Patent Attorney

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