We are now approaching the 1 April 2014 date on which a large number of European Patent Office official fees will increase. These include renewal fees, filing fees, search fees and examination fees.
The fee increases apply for payments made as from 1 April, so even for fees that are officially due after 1 April we can potentially utilise the lower fee rates as long as we get them paid this month.
On the whole the increases are of the order of 4 to 5%, but some fees will increase more significantly. Even for those fees that are going up by about 4% or so, this will soon add up if you have a portfolio of applications.
It is also worth stressing that the fee for a European search (or supplementary European search) is going up by a more significant amount, with a 10% increase from 1165 to 1285 Euros.
Certainly if you have new filings in Europe that fall due on or after 1 April, it is worthwhile thinking about instructing us on these matters this month, so that we can take advantage of the current lower fees. Equally, if you have existing patent applications where you have been set a deadline for paying fees, e.g. for paying an extra search fee, or for paying examination and designation fees, if you are in a position where you can confirm we should go ahead before the end of March then we can have the benefit of the current fee rates.
It is also possible to validly pay renewal fees up to three months in advance. Therefore renewal fees that are due to the EPO in April, May or June can be paid before 1 April to avoid the fee increases. Please let us know as soon as possible if you have any such renewal fees that you would like to be paid this month, at the cheaper rates.
Finally, there is also a 50% increase in the appeal fee, which goes up from 1240 to 1860 Euros. Therefore if you have recently received an adverse decision from the EPO, and are contemplating an appeal, act now! We can progress the notice of appeal, which is a purely formal matter, and pay the appeal fee before 1 April so that we can pay at the lower rate. If you decide not to progress the appeal, by not substantiating it with grounds of appeal, then we receive a full refund of the appeal fee.
In general, if you have any pending European patent cases where actions are due involving fees, or are thinking about filing a new application in Europe (whether directly or out of an existing PCT application) we are happy to talk to you about whether there are any steps that could be progressed this month to avoid the fee increase.