Just before Christmas, when many people are winding down, the EPO has decided to come out with some significant changes to be made to the way European patents are dealt with. Two Administrative Council decisions have recently appeared on the EPO website, both of which will, in different ways, affect how much European applications will cost in future.
Decision CA/D 16/07, which will come into force on 1 April 2008, increases fees for applications across the board. Most increases are fairly small single digit percentage rises, but renewal fees in particular will rise substantially, becoming even more weighted towards the latter end of the life of a patent application pending at the EPO. [The IPKat wonders whether this gives the EPO more of an incentive to be even slower than they are at present, since the longer they hang on to applications the more money they get.]
The second decision, CA/D 15/07, does not come into force until 1 April 2009, but makes some pretty scary changes to the fees, particularly for those who like filing large patent applications with lots of claims, as well as applicants who might want coverage in only a few countries through the European system.
These changes include:
The message from this is fairly clear: the EPO wants applicants to be a lot more careful about what they file, and there will be heavy penalties for not playing the game. For example, an application with 50 claims will, after 1 April 2008, cost an extra 7000 euros, and 60 claims (after 1 April 2009) will cost an extra 12,000 euros, compared with only 2250 euros now. Combined with the new strict requirement to sort out unity of invention at the international phase (under rule 164), there will be a big incentive to keep applications slimmed down as much as possible.
Although these changes do not come into force for a while, they should be affecting decisions being made right now, given the long lead time between filing an application and entering the European phase up to 31 months later. Some applicants may be in for a nasty, and very expensive, surprise later on.