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Speculation on the Unitary Patent Renewal Fees: Graphs, graphs, graphs and a prediction
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…