The EPO has announced an amendment to Rule 51(1) EPC, which at present states that renewal fees cannot be paid more than three months before they fall due. Under the amended wording of Rule 51(1) EPC (please see here), it will be possible to pay the third year renewal fee up to six months before it falls due. The third year renewal fee falls due 24 months after the filing date of the application.
The EPO has made this change to Rule 51(1) EPC in order to make it possible for more applicants to pay the third year renewal fee upon European regional phase entry. Applicants can, of course, continue to pay the third year renewal fee closer to the due date if desired. Rule 51(1) EPC remains unchanged as regards all renewal fees other than the third year fee, which cannot be paid validly more than three months before they fall due.
The amended version of Rule 51(1) EPC will come into force on 1 April 2018, and will apply to renewal fees paid on or after that date.
If you have any questions regarding this change, please get in touch with your usual J A Kemp contact.