The EPO has announced initial fee levels for UPs.
The proposed fees have the following in common:
- Initial fees will be based on the level of the EPO's internal renewal fees (the fees payable to the EPO for pending European patent applications currently)
- From years 6 to 9 there will be a transitional level between the internal renewal fee level and the year 10 level
- From year 10 the fees will be set at a level equivalent to the total sum of the national renewal fees payable in the states in which European patents are most frequently validated – either based on renewal fees for the top 4 signatory states for popularity of validation or based on the top 5 of those states (with a reduction for SMEs, individuals, universities, public research organisations and not-for-profit organisations.
Over 20 years the Top 4 level of fees adds up to EUR 37 995 and for the Top 5 level to EUR 43 625 (and EUR 41 655 for SMEs etc with their reduction). This compares to around EUR 160k if you had sought a European patent in all 25 Member States (which the UP would cover, but of course you will need to get Italy and Spain separately anyway in both cases). EUR 38k v EUR 160k is perhaps an extreme comparison. How attractive this is will depend on your patenting strategy – if you would usually have validated in only 3 countries (such as the UK, France and Germany, for which by virtue of the London Agreement, there are no translation costs either) then the UP will not be good value for money, but if you regularly validate your European patents in 6 or more countries then the UP will be cheaper (in terms of renewal fees anyway) although the other perceived risks of participating state-wide revocation will still need to factored in to any decision on selecting a UP over the usual bundle of EPs.