Reducing the EPO’s fees

30 October 2017

Last week our Office put forward a series of ground breaking proposals to reduce EPO fees. If adopted by our Organisation’s Member States in December, the measures will lower a number of costs in the patent application process and help reinforce a more business friendly-approach in support of innovation.

A carefully controlled fee policy is an essential element of institutions such as patent offices. The EPO itself has to ensure that it can ably finance its activities and liabilities while striving the behaviour of applicants with different incentives. The implementation of our Quality and Efficiency policy has played a major part in that process. The increase of our costs has been rather limited and a clear driver of our new efficiency measures was to ensure that those costs have not been passed on to our users. In the meantime, the EPO was able to improve the quality of its products and services and I encourage you to read our new comprehensive Quality Report. After all, it is our mission to support innovation with legally solid patents, while not hampering inventors and enterprises with spiralling application fees.

Since 2012, some of our fees have been frozen and have not been adjusted upwards to account for inflation. I am now pleased to say that we are proposing that the inflation-based biennial fee adjustment for 2018 – 2020 will not be applied. Ultimately, this move is expected to save our users 15 million Euros in 2018 alone.

We’re also now in a position to go further in making our services more affordable, as a result of the quality and efficiency policy. The first of two entirely new proposals will reduce both the PCT search fee and the examination fee by EUR 100 each. That equates to a 5% reduction which will save our users around 7 million Euro next year.

In addition, a second new proposal will result in a greater discount in the case of some European examination fees. Currently, European examination fees for files already examined by the EPO in PCT proceedings benefit from a 50% reduction. Under the new measure this discount will be increased to 75% and, in real terms, applicants will now only pay EUR 456,25 instead of EUR 912,50. For applicants using the EPO as ISA for search and examination and entering the European phase, our different PCT fee proposals would result in a considerable fee reduction: a decrease of EUR 656, meaning -14% compared to the current situation.

Altogether, these proposals are set to result in considerable savings for our users. It’s estimated that the measures above will save our applicants a combined total of 25 million Euro next year.

Another important effect of the control of the EPO over its costs is that the Office can propose cheaper national search reports with written opinion to eight member states which outsource these works to the Office. Falling unit costs therefore mean that we are now in a position to reduce fees by around 7% for the next three years. The agreement to provide additional reductions for certain applicants, including SMEs and universities, will also be extended.

This search to find savings is an ongoing process as we develop new ways to bolster European competitiveness and its innovation sector. Not just in terms of financial costs, but also to reduce the administrative burden. Over the coming months, you may be interested to know that we’ll be finalising a new XML filing process for patent applications. The move will allow our users to file in DOCX, which is the XML-based format most users apply in their daily work. Furthermore, we intend to waive altogether the transmittal fee of EUR 130 charged by the EPO as receiving Office for applicants filing in DOCX format.

Although the proposals are still subject to approval, the Office’s reforms have brought us to a point where we can now deliver a host of real savings to our applicants. I look forward to reporting back later in the year with final confirmation of all these fee reductions.

Benoît Battistelli

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