The European Patent Office is increasing its official fees, from 1 April 2014.

Most fees will increase by around 4-5%. However, the fee for a European search will increase by as much as 10% (from 1165 to 1285 Euros).There is also a notable rise in the appeal fee, which will increase from 1240 to 1860 Euros (a 50% increase).

Given the current large backlog of pending appeal cases, it seems likely that the large increase in the appeal fee is an attempt to discourage the filing of ‘speculative’ appeals, intended primarily to maintain pendency. The EPO has also introduced new rules relating to refunds of the appeal fee, to encourage appellants to drop cases which are no longer of interest. Presently, a (full) refund of the appeal fee is only available if an appeal is withdrawn before the expiry of the time limit for filing the grounds of appeal (or in the event of a substantial procedural violation). After 1 April 2014, it will also be possible to receive a 50% refund of the appeal fee when a pending appeal is withdrawn after the grounds of appeal have been filed, provided certain conditions relating to the timing of the withdrawal are met.

EPO fees are payable at the rate that applies on the date of payment, not the due date. Therefore, it is worth considering whether any upcoming actions, with deadlines on or after 1 April and involving the payment of official fees, could be done early to take advantage of the current lower fees. In this regard, note that it is possible to pay renewal fees up to three months in advance.