The respected IPKat blog has recently published a post with information about renewal fees for the upcoming unitary patent.  These proposals have reportedly been submitted by the President of the EPO to the Select Committee of the Administrative Council for their opinion.

The Unitary Patent

As a recap, the EU agreed a unitary patent package that will introduce the unitary patent (UP) and the unified patent court (UPC).  This will be a single patent valid in 25 EU member states (all the EU except for Italy and Spain), in contrast to the current situation in which a grant by the European Patent Office must be converted into a bundle of separate national rights

The package will enter into force after 13 countries (which must include the UK, Germany and France) ratify the agreement.  At the time of writing, six countries have ratified the agreement, including France.

The new unitary patent will co-exist beside “classical” European Patents and separate national protection, so there will be some tactics involved in choosing which route to choose.  One of the key considerations is the cost involved, and so information about renewal fees has been keenly awaited.

The Proposals

There is more detail (including specific numbers) on the IPKat blog as noted above, but in essence, the proposals seem to involve the following structure:

  • Years 3-5: same as the current level of EPO renewal fees.
  • Years 6-9: a higher level of fees, transitioning between current EPO levels and an eventual “TOP” level.
  • Years 10 onwards: a “TOP” level, equivalent to the total sum of renewal fees charged in the states where existing European Patents are most frequently validated.

There will be  discount of 25% for the first 10 years only for SMEs, natural persons, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations.

At the moment there are two proposals on the table for the “TOP” fees – either they will be calculated based on current renewal fee levels for four European countries, or for five European countries.

The Impact

The renewal fees were always going to be high, and the proposals are not perhaps as expensive as they might have been.  However it is disappointing that the proposals do not include anything cheaper, such as a TOP level equivalent to three European countries.  The precise amounts announced so far have been the fruit of some intense negotiations and will likely be subject to further debate.

However starting from this framework it seems that the Unitary Patent will not be cost effective for many parties.  Savings might be available if patentees need protection in many European countries, but in most cases relatively few countries are needed and so at this level I can see there being significant reluctance to use the new system.

We will post again once we have further updates.