Opening IP protection to micro-entities – EPO announces significant fee reductions

From 1 April 2024, most official fees are rising at the European Patent Office. For the most part, these are below the inflation rate but the first two renewal fees (second anniversary and third anniversary of filing) are seeing a rise of 30%.

However, the EPO have increased the scope of discounts available on official fees, provided certain criteria are met.

New Fee Reduction Scheme

The EPO are introducing a new fee reduction scheme for applicants who have filed fewer than five European patent applications in the five years preceding the filing date of the application, provided they are a micro-entity. This scheme is available irrespective of nationality.

Micro-entities include:

–          Microenterprises*;

–          Natural persons; and

–          Non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations.

The fee reduction scheme offers a 30% discount on the major official fees associated with European patent applications: filing; search; designation; examination; grant and renewal.

A simple self-declaration of eligibility is sufficient to be accepted on the scheme, so savings on official fees should not be reduced by the time and effort required to prove eligibility. Of course, it is important to make sure eligibility is correctly declared – any fees paid using a discount will be deemed not to have been paid at all (and the application withdrawn) if it becomes apparent that the declaration of eligibility was made incorrectly or if there is an undeclared change in status.

The new scheme can be daisy-chained with the EPO’s existing language-based discounts to give an overall discount of 51% on “book price” for filing and examination fees, in the right circumstances.

The fee reduction scheme is a welcome move to support smaller organisations and individuals looking to protect their innovations in Europe. These discounts will hopefully act to encourage applications from those who may otherwise have found the official fees to be a barrier to applying for a European patent.

If you would like any more information on the fee reductions at the EPO, or to discuss how Barker Brettell can help you obtain Intellectual Property Rights in Europe please contact the author or your usual Barker Brettell attorney.

*A microenterprise is defined by the European Commission as an enterprise which employs fewer than ten people and whose annual turnover or balance sheet total does not exceed €2 million.