Fee reductions for micro entities at the EPO

Posted on March 28, 2024

From 1 April 2024, ‘micro-entities’ may be able to access a 30% reduction in official fees payable to the European Patent Office (EPO).

This means that an enterprise employing fewer than 10 full-time staff and having an annual turnover and/or balance sheet of up to €2m may be able to make significant savings in European patent costs. Natural persons and non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations are also eligible for the same fee reductions, as explained by the EPO here.

Previously, reduced fees were only available to certain entities filing applications in European languages other than English, French or German, and so this change marks a significant expansion of the EPO’s fee reduction regime.

Fees reduced under this scheme include the filing fee, search fee, examination fee, grant fee and renewal fees, and the reductions apply both to directly filed European patent applications and to European regional phase applications derived from International (PCT) applications. More information on which fees are reduced is provided by the EPO here.

Fee reductions will be available provided that the applicant has filed no more than four earlier European patent applications in the preceding five years.

In practice, these new fee reductions could result in the following approximate savings, based on fee amounts set from 1 April 2024 (note that figures are for a typical case, and may vary from application to application depending on which fees are due):

Direct-filed European patent application:

  • Filing and search fees (due on filing) reduced from €1,655 to €1,158.50, saving almost €500
  • Examination and designation fees (typically due around two years from the earliest priority date) reduced from €2,600 to €1,820, saving €780
  • Grant fee reduced from €1080 to €756, saving €324
  • Renewal fees payable to the EPO while the application is pending will also be reduced by 30%

Ex-PCT European patent applications:

  • If the EPO acted as the International Search Authority (ISA) – filing, examination* and designation fees reduced from €2,955 to about €1,600, saving about €1,350
    *The examination fee is reduced by 30%, and also by an amount equivalent to 30% of the Search Fee paid on the International (PCT) Application during the International Phase when the EPO acted as ISA
  • If the EPO did not act as the ISA – filing, search, examination and designation fees reduced from €4,600 to €3,220, saving €1,380
  • Grant fee reduced from €1080 to €756, saving €324
  • Renewal fees payable to the EPO while the application is pending will also be reduced by 30%

Fee reductions must be requested prior to, or at the time of, fees being paid at the EPO, as explained here. Particular care needs to be taken to ensure that the EPO is informed if the status of the applicant changes and/or if the application is transferred to a new owner. As noted by the EPO here, an application may be deemed withdrawn if it is found that fees have been underpaid due to incorrect application of fee reductions.

We are pleased to see the EPO offering these fee reductions, which will provide a welcome cost saving to micro-enterprises, including spin-outs and start-ups in particular.

If you have any questions on these new provisions, please get in touch with you usual Abel + Imray contact.

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