Since 2006 official fees at the EPO have risen on a biennial basis and 1 April this year will see the latest increases.
The new inflation adjusted fees will increase by an average of about 4.3%, although the European Search Fee will rise by about 10.3% (to EUR 1285) in order to bring it more into line with the cost of an International Search carried out by the EPO as International Search Authority (EUR 1875). At the same time the EPO will implement more substantial changes to the appeal fee and introduce a new fee for filing second and higher generation divisional applications.
The current appeal fee (set back in 2012) is EUR 1240 and has previously only been modestly increased (in 2002, the appeal fee was EUR 1020). However, as of 1 April 2014, the appeal fee will rise 50% to EUR 1860. The reasons for this large increase are two-fold.
Firstly, the current fee covers only around 4% of the actual cost to the EPO of appeal proceedings (calculated to be about EUR 31000 in 2012). The EPO consider that an increase in the fee will lead to slightly better cost coverage for appeals without being detrimental to access to justice.
Secondly, the increase comes at a time when the EPO has extended its policy of reimbursement of the appeal fee in the event the appeal is withdrawn.
At present Rule 103(1)(b) EPC provides for full reimbursement of the appeal fee in the event the appeal is withdrawn before the filing of the Grounds of Appeal.
As of 1 April 2014, Rule 103 EPC (reimbursement of appeal fee) will be amended to extend the possibility of obtaining a partial refund of the appeal fee to situations after the deadline for filing the Grounds of Appeal has expired.
New Rule 103(2) EPC provides for a 50% refund of the appeal fee provided withdrawal occurs:
(a) if a date for Oral Proceedings has been set, at least four weeks before that date;
(b) if no date for oral proceedings has been set, and the Board has issued a communication inviting the appellant to file observations, before expiry of the period set by the Board for filing observations;
(c) in all other cases, before the decision is issued.
The EPO consider that allowing a partial reimbursement after the deadline for filing the Grounds of Appeal will provide parties with an incentive to reflect on whether or not to proceed with appeal proceedings and thus may have a positive effect on the Appeal Boards’ workload and thus appeal pendency times.
New Fee for Divisional Applications
1 April 2014 sees the end of the present EPO system of allowing a divisional application to be filed only within certain time limits.
Rule 36 EPC is being amended to once more allow the filing of divisional applications at any time, provided that the parent application is still pending.
However, in an attempt to discourage applicants from filing long sequences of divisional applications (a practice that the EPO consider detrimental to the legal certainty of third parties as well as increasing office workload), the EPO propose to levy an additional fee for second and higher generation divisional applications.
The additional fee will not be incurred by a first generation divisional application, but the fee for higher generation divisionals will progressively increase as shown below.
Fee for divisional application of second generation - EUR 210
Fee for divisional application of third generation - EUR 420
Fee for divisional application of fourth generation - EUR 630
Fee for divisional application of fifth or higher generation - EUR 840