The EPO has announced a series of amendments to the rules relating to fees, which will come into force on 1 April 2018.
The EPO has decided not to apply inflationary increases to all fees, and so the majority of fees will remain unchanged from 1 April 2018. However, as discussed further below, a number of changes to the fee structure have been made.
The amendments that are perhaps of greatest significance to users of the EPO are those relating to the appeal fee. At present, the appeal fee is fixed at 1,880 EUR for all appellants. From 1 April 2018, there will be two levels of appeal fee. Specifically, the appeal fee will remain at 1,880 EUR for appellants that are either (a) a natural person, or (b) a small- or medium-sized enterprise, a non-profit organisation, a university or a public research organisation (see here for further details on these categories). For all other entities, the appeal fee will increase to 2,255 EUR.
To benefit from the reduced appeal fee, it will be necessary to file a statement from the appellant declaring that it falls within either category (a) or (b) set out above. It is the appellant’s status when filing the appeal that is relevant. Subsequent changes to the status of the appellant do not have retroactive effect on the appeal fee due. The appellant carries the burden of proving that it fell within either category (a) or (b) set out above at the time of filing the appeal, and the EPO can request that supporting evidence be filed if necessary. If the reduced fee is paid and it is later determined that appellant did not at the timing of filing the appeal fall within either category (a) or (b) set out above, then the appeal will be deemed inadmissible and this defect cannot be remedied.
Given that the saving in the appeal fee is relatively modest (approximately 17%), that it will sometimes be non-trivial to determine if the appellant is entitled to pay the reduced appeal fee and that an incorrect payment of a reduced fee cannot later be remedied, it may often in practice be most cost-effective and safest simply to pay the full appeal fee by default.
The other amendments to the rules relates to fees are summarised below. These changes also come into force on 1 April 2018.
In addition, as discussed in our news item here, the EPO has also announced that a 190 EUR reduction in the search fee will no longer be available from 1 April 2018 for applications where the international search report was drawn up by the US, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Russian or Australian patent office.
If you have any questions regarding these changes, please get in touch with your usual J A Kemp contact.