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The EPO apparently has a new internal procedure that debuted at some point in the last year which applies when a European patent application enters the six-month grace period for payment of an overdue renewal fee. Once this happens the case file is apparently put on hold so that the Examiner is unable to work on it until the renewal fee has been paid.
IPcopy has heard that a colleague recently tried to briefly discuss a case with an Examiner to see if the claims looked in good shape from the Examiner’s point of view and also when the next exam report might issue. However the case in question was in the grace period for the renewal payment and so the Examiner was prevented from even opening the file to answer what were relatively basic questions. (more…)
Cast your mind back to December 2012 when the Unitary Patent Regulation and Unified Patent Agreement were approved by the European Parliament, and you may recall a lot of press releases explaining what great value for money the unitary patent would be. In particular, we were told that the unitary patent would bring patent protection in Europe financially in line with patent protection in other countries, such as the US and China.
Back then, the fees relating to the unitary patent were completely unknown. Fifteen months later, we know little more than we did then: it seems likely that there will be no fee for validating a unitary patent, and rumours are that the opt-out fee will be in the region of €50 – €100, but we are still in the dark when it comes to the most important fees of all: the renewal fees of the unitary patent. The only titbit that has recently escaped the lips of anyone in the know came from the EPO president, who said cryptically in December 2013 that the renewal fees would be “higher than many would hope, but lower than some might fear”.
The level at which the renewal fees are set will be key in determining whether the unitary patent can deliver on its promise of value for money. The Select Committee responsible for setting the renewal fees must balance on the one hand the need to keep the unitary patent financially attractive to industry, and on the other hand the need for the unitary patent to be self-financing. The second part of this equation is difficult for us to assess from the outside. The first half, however, is susceptible to a bit of speculation.
So, in this post, which will feature a lot of graphs, we will be taking a look at how value-for-money (in terms of renewal fees) differs among countries within the EPC and how the EPC and Unitary Patent countries currently compare to the US and China, and we will consider what level the Unitary Patent fees might need to be if they are to match the value-for-money offered by Chinese and US patents. We’re even going to go so far as to put out a prediction. We fully expect to be proved completely wrong, but hope that throwing out some actual numbers might generate some interesting discussion from commentators…