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New EPO fee system effective 1 April 2024 

The EPO has recently announced a revised fee structure for the next two years, including new fee reductions for micro-enterprises and the reduction of some fees, as well as some increases elsewhere.  At Schlich we are ready to guide you through these changes and advise whether you may benefit from paying upcoming fees before/after implementation of the new fee structure. 

The EPO fee changes effective 1 April 2024 (announced here) appear to be more than the usual inflationary increase of official fees.  Rather, there appears to be a restructuring which, according to the EPO, will “include reductions for small companies and even the abolition of some fees”. 

One important emphasis appears to be greater support for micro-enterprises, natural persons, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations.  This aligns with some existing/continuing provisions for small and medium-sized applicants and the EPO hopes this will help smaller innovative entities to access the European patent system. 

There will be additional discounts for users of MyEPO Portfolio and abolition of five rarely-used fees, compensated by “moderate fee increases” elsewhere. 

The EPO has also announced that there will be no inflation adjustment of fees in 2025, which would normally take place as part of the two-year fee review cycle. 

New discount for micro-entities 

A significant new development is the implementation of a new 30% discount of certain fees for micro-entities, including microenterprises (enterprises having fewer than 10 employees and a turnover and/or balance sheet not exceeding EUR 2 million), natural persons and non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations.  This discount can be applied sequentially with existing discounts for SMEs resident or having a principal place of business in an EPC contracting state which file a European patent application or request examination in an official language of that state other than English, French or German. 

Unlike the language-based reduction, the new micro-entity reduction applies to all eligible applicants, irrespective of their nationality or domicile. 

The new fee reduction is 30% off the filing fee (including additional page fees), the search fee, the examination fee, the designation fee, the fee for grant and the renewal fees and is claimed by a simple self-designation (with an ongoing duty to advise the EPO if eligibility is lost).  If there are multiple applicants, all applicants must be eligible for the discount to apply. 

As the discount is intended to encourage new/infrequent users of the European patent system, eligibility of the discount is capped – if the applicant (or a partner/linked enterprise) has filed five EP or EP(PCT) applications in the 5 years preceding the relevant date of the application, the fees will not be reduced (irrespective of the current status of the earlier cases).  This means that an applicant can gain or lose eligibility for the discount over time, for example as previous applications fall out of the 5-year window. 

What about other fees? 

Most commonly paid fees are increasing, including the search, examination, designation, excess claims and grant fees.  However, the filing fee (including additional page fees), additional fees for divisional applications, opposition and appeal fees are unchanged. 

Other fees have been reduced or abolished.  Many of these relate to more obscure procedures, but notably the fees for recording assignments and for obtaining certified copies are reduced to zero, but only if requested via the MyEPO Portfolio platform. 

The situation for renewal fees is more complicated, with fees for the 3rd to 5th and 7th to 9th years increasing, fees for the 10th and subsequent years remaining the same, and fees for the 6th year decreasing. 

How can we help you? 

At Schlich, we are mindful that our clients appreciate good value, whether or not they are especially cost-sensitive.  We will work with you to identify whether applicants are eligible for the micro-entity fee reductions, and where fee payments fall due in the lead up to implementation of the new fee structure on 1 April 2024, and any relevant deadlines permit, we will attempt to identify whether it is advantageous to pay the fees at the current rates or at the new rates.  In some cases, there will be a cost benefit to paying the fees early, but in other cases it may be preferable to delay, especially for applicants eligible for the 30% fee reduction. 

We already use the MyEPO Portfolio platform, and we are ready to use this platform to avoid unnecessary fee payments, e.g. for registering transfers, after 1 April 2024. 

If you would like further information about the new fee structure, or wish to discuss the implications for specific cases, please contact your usual Schlich attorney, who will be pleased to assist you. 

Our articles are for general information only. They should not be considered specific legal advice, which is available upon request. All information in our articles is considered to be accurate at the date of publishing.


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