New EPO fee reductions for micro-entities from 1 April 2024

Author: Harry O'Brien
IP News

Following up from our recent article on increases to EPO fees (see link below), the EPO is simultaneously introducing a new fee reduction scheme for micro-entities which will also enter into force on 1 April 2024.

The new scheme aims to support the growth and development of smaller entities by making it easier for them to access the European patent system. It complements the existing language-related fee reductions, where small entities (SMEs, natural persons, non-profit organisations and universities etc.) which have their residence or principal place of business in an EPC contracting state can request a fee reduction when filing a European patent application or request for examination in an official language of that state other than English, French or German.

Unlike the language-related fee reduction scheme, micro-entities will be eligible for the scheme irrespective of their nationality or domicile. Micro-entities include the above-mentioned small entities, with the exception of SMEs which instead must be ‘microenterprises’ (an enterprise that employs fewer than 10 persons and whose annual turnover does not exceed EUR 2,000,000).

Micro-entities will be eligible for a 30% reduction to the following fees:

– the filing fee;
– the search fee;
– the examination fee;
– the designation fee;
– the fee for grant; and
– the renewal fees for the European patent application.

The same reduction will also be available for a selection of Euro-PCT fees where the EPO acts as the International Searching Authority.

To benefit from the micro-entity fee reductions, applicants must declare their status to the EPO at the latest when the relevant fee is being paid. For applications with more than one applicant, each applicant must be a micro-entity to obtain the fee reduction. Any changes to the status of a micro-entity after a declaration will only take effect for future fees to be paid and will not affect any reduced fees already paid. For transfers of applications, the fee reduction will continue to apply only if the new applicant is also eligible (and the new applicant must also file a new declaration).

It will be possible for applicants who are eligible for both the present language reductions and the new reductions for micro-entities to receive two reductions for certain fees e.g., the filing fee.

It is imperative that the applicant informs the EPO if there is any change to the micro-entity status. Random checks regarding the status of applicants will be carried out by the EPO and where there is any reasonable doubt regarding the applicant’s status, evidence to prove the applicant’s status may be requested. The consequence of an incorrect declaration is that any unduly reduced fee will be deemed to have not been validly paid and the application will be deemed withdrawn. Although it will be possible to revive the application, this could be a costly procedure for the applicant.

The reduced fees will also only be available for the first five applications filed within a five year period. This applies irrespective of whether the previous applications filed within the five year period were subject to a fee reduction and irrespective of the status of the previous applications.

The new changes represent a positive move for small organisations and individuals wishing to make use of the European patent system, particularly when considering the fee increases due to take effect from 1 April 2024.

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. For more information, contact Harry O’Brien or Anna Hatt.

Click here to see our recent article on fee increases from 1 April 2024


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