Intellectual Property professionals and businesses alike have been waiting to see what the European Patent Office (EPO) will propose in terms of costs for the future European Unitary Patent. Now, a report by the president of the EPO, entitled Proposals for the level of renewal fees for European patents with a unitary effect has been published and sent to the EPO’s supervisory body for comment.*

Possible Unitary Patent Fee Structures

It is thought that the report contains two possible fee structures, both of which are likely to prove expensive for smaller businesses:

  • TOP 4: fees after 10 years equalling the combined current renewal prices in the four most popular EPO jurisdictions; and
  • TOP 5: fees after 10 years equalling the combined current renewal prices in the five most popular EPO jurisdictions with a 25% fee reduction for SMEs up to the 10th year.

With many European patent applications remaining pending for well over 10 years, both of these proposals represent a significant increase in fees, which will be hardest felt by those smaller businesses where IP protection costs are already a significant commitment; often the same businesses where protection is crucial to future business plans and business expansion.

Speaking out for SME Patent Applicants

Commenting on the latest developments in the progress of the European Unitary Patent, Sarah Perkins, a partner at SH&P said: “Many SMEs will be disappointed with this news. It is not uncommon for European patent applications to remain pending for over 10 years, and as annual renewal fees are payable on pending patent applications, the EPO profits from its own delays in prosecution. Unfortunately there is a very real risk that this problem will persist under the future Unitary patent system.

From a commercial perspective, if they have not already done so many SMEs will need to actively consider abandoning pursuit of patent rights through the EPO in favour of national patent applications.  Sadly the filing of national applications involves significantly higher upfront costs and forces SMEs to restrict the European markets in which they seek patent protection much earlier than is the case under the EPO system.  So at these fee levels there is a risk of SMEs restricting their opportunities for business expansion.”

SH&P is not alone in having clients who have abandoned European patent applications because the innovative technology covered by the patent applications became out-of-date before the EPO got around to granting the application.

European Patent Advice from SH&P

At SH&P we always consider the best interests of your business, based on your plans, your goals and the market in which you operate. Our advice is objective, and given with your budget and potential earnings in mind as well as with our extensive expertise in the patent system in the UK and worldwide.

Your initial consultation with us is completely free, so for advice on European patent applications or any other patent-related issue, please make an appointment with one of our patent attorneys today.

*Information taken from “Revealed: EPO finally proposes level of renewal fees for the Unitary Patent” 9 March 2015 and