European Patent Office Fee Changes May Prompt Change in Patent Filing Strategy

The European Patent Office (EPO) is changing its fee schedule in a two-part rule to take effect in April 2008 and April 2009.  This will result in both good news and bad news for inventors who are filing patent applications in Europe.

First, the good news: in April 2009, the EPO will no longer require different fees depending on the number of European countries that an applicant wants to designate in an application.  Instead, the EPO will adopt a flat fee of EUR500, which will automatically designate all countries.  This will allow applicants to avoid having to decide whether or not to narrow down the list of designated countries when filing.

Now, the bad news:  the fees for filing patent applications with large numbers of claims will be much higher.  Currently, the base application fee includes 10 claims, and each additional claim requires a fee of EUR45.  In April 2008, the base fee will include 15 claims, but the excess claim fee will be EUR200 per claim.  In April 2009, an additional fee of EUR500  will be added to claims in excess of 50. 

Many U.S. patent applicants simply file the same application worldwide.  However, because the U.S. base fee includes 20 claims, many U.S. applicants will suddenly find themselves subject to higher filing fees in Europe later this year.  Before filing in Europe, applicants should review applications and consider whether to reduce or combine claims in any patent applications that contain more than 15 claims.

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