As of April 1, 2018 the EPO has introduced a reduction in its search and examination fees, in a move that is intended to be user-friendly and to allow greater access to the EPO system as a whole.

In announcing this reduction, the EPO said that the fee reduction measure will lower various costs in the European patent application and examination process, thereby reinforcing a more business friendly-approach by the EPO to support innovation. In a statement, EPO President Battistelli said that “[t]he EPO’s mission is to support innovation, competitiveness and growth through a commitment to high quality and efficiency” and that “[a] carefully controlled fee policy is an essential element in this, and thanks to gains made through internal reforms, we have kept our costs stable and can now make our services more business-friendly and affordable for users”.

The most notable features of the new and reduced fee structure are the following:
• The EPO has decided not to apply the inflation-based biennial fee adjustment for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020. This is expected to lead to savings of EUR 15 million to users in 2018 alone.

• The EPO has decided to reduce both its PCT search and examination fees by EUR 100 each. This move is expected to lead to savings of EUR 7 million to users in the coming year.
Specifically, as of April 1, 2018 the PCT search fee when the EPO is selected as International Searching Authority is EUR 1,775, compared to the previous fee of EUR 1,875. Similarly, the PCT preliminary examination fee when the EPO is selected as International Preliminary Examination Authority is now EUR 1,830, compared to the previous fee of EUR 1,930.

• The EPO has decided to increase the already existing discount on the European examination fees for files already searched and examined by the EPO in PCT proceedings. The decrease changes the discount from the previous 50% to the new discount of 75% applicable from April 1, 2018. In practice, this increased discount on European examination fees entails that applicants who selected the EPO as International Searching Authority during the PCT phase, and who also selected the EPO as International Preliminary Examination Authority during that same phase, will now only need to pay EUR 456.24, instead of the previous EUR 912.50, for examination by the EPO during the EP phase.
For those applicants who use the EPO for search and examination in the PCT phase of their international applications, and who then enter the European phase for those applications, these fee changes will potentially lead to a decrease of EUR 656.00, which corresponds to a 14% reduction over the previous situation.

The EPO estimates that the combined effect of all of the above fee reductions will lead to a total of EUR 25 million in savings for users in 2018 alone.

This is certainly a very positive move by the EPO, which will make the EPO system more attractive both during the international phase and during the EP phase, particularly for those applicants who avail of the EPO also during the PCT phase.

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