The President of the EPO has presented revised proposals for the level of renewal fees for European patents with unitary effect (the original proposals leaked out earlier this year, in March). Two alternatives have been put forward. In the first, the renewal fee is based on the renewal fees in the 4 EPC states in which European patents are most commonly validated (so-called “True Top 4”). In the second, the renewal fee is based on the renewal fees in the 5 EPC states in which European patents are most commonly validated (so-called “True Top 5”), with a 25% discount for years 2 to 10 to certain legal persons, including SMEs, natural persons, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations.
Compared to the March proposals, the EPO has moved away from the idea of using the EPO’s internal renewal fees (which apply to pending European patent applications) for years 2 to 5, and as the basis for a sliding scale in years 6 to 10. Instead, the renewal fees in these years are now based on the same principle used for years 11 to 20 i.e. the 4 or 5 EPC states in which European patents are most commonly validated. Since the EPO internal renewal fees are relatively high, this produces a modest reduction in years 2 to 5 of €2,440 (True Top 4) or €1,660 (True Top 5) compared with the March proposal. The reduction for years 6 to 10 is even more modest: €835 (True Top 4) and €415 (True Top 5). However, this reduction may be more apparent than real. EPO data indicates that the median time to grant of is 31.4 months after receipt of an application by the EPO, during which time the proposed savings for years 2 and 3 will be lost. Any additional delay in search or examination at the EPO would further erode the savings available to the patentee. Applicants who are willing to adopt procedural approaches to speed up grant of the unitary patent are most likely to benefit from the revised proposals. Filing directly at the EPO, rather than using the PCT route, is also a key factor. It is unlikely that that any savings will be available in this time period for applications entering the EPO using the PCT route.
There is no consultation process, so no opportunity for interested parties to make representations on this. However, the proposals will nevertheless be closely scrutinised as the renewal fees for unitary patents are acknowledged to be a key factor in the overall success of the patent reform package in Europe.