Part II - EPO CHANGES TO OFFICIAL FEES FOR 2020
The European Patent Office has published details of the revised Official fees that will enter into force on April 1 2020 (January 2020 issue of Official Journal of the EPO).
As Catherine Hanratty and Marie Walsh reported previously, a general fee increase of 4%, as an inflation indexed adjustment, has been applied by the EPO. Here we focus on the appeal fee increase and new options for partial refunds if the appeal is subsequently withdrawn.
The Appeal fee will increase by 20% from Euro 2255 to Euro 2705 from April 1st 2020. A reduced Appeal fee (EUR 1880 as of April 1 2020) is available for individuals, SMEs, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations.
The increase of the Appeal fee is set against the background that the Boards of Appeal continue efforts to reduce the backlog of Appeal cases with a five-year objective of settling 90% of cases within 30 months of receipt and reducing the number of pending cases to below 7 000 by 2023. At a recent count, the backlog of Appeal cases at the Boards of Appeal was 9338 cases pending on October 31 2019 with 90% of cases settled within 65 months of receipt.
While the Appeal fee has been increased, the relevant rule, Rule 103 EPC, has been amended to provide new options for the refund or partial refund of an Appeal fee if the Appeal is withdrawn.
The new options for partial refunds are intended to provide appellants with incentives to re-consider whether they still have a commercial interest in continuing with the appeal and/or whether there is a need to re-assess or adjust their appeal strategy and procedural requests. The options are for 75%, 50% or 25% reimbursement of the appeal fee, according to the stage of the procedure at which the appeal is withdrawn:
- Withdrawal of the appeal in response to a communication from the Board indicating its intention to start substantive examination of the appeal (reimbursement at 75%)
Under the new provisions, it is proposed that in long-pending appeal cases the Board of Appeal will as a rule issue a standard-form communication informing the parties of the intended start of the substantive examination of the appeal and drawing attention to the time-limited possibility of withdrawing the appeal and receiving a partial reimbursement of the appeal fee of 75%.
- Withdrawal of the appeal during the examination of the appeal (reimbursement at 50%)
The examination phase of the appeal procedure begins when the rapporteur takes up the file and starts the substantive examination of the appeal. It includes the drafting of the internal votum on the appeal case, and possibly the issuing of a communication under Rule 100(2) EPC (on substantive matters) or, where oral proceedings are scheduled, the issuing of the communication under Article 15(1) RPBA to establish the framework of the oral proceedings.
- Withdrawal of the appeal in the decision phase (reimbursement at 25%)
The decision phase begins immediately after the end of the examination phase. It includes the preparation and conduct of oral proceedings as well as the announcement of the decision on the appeal at the oral proceedings and/or the drafting and issuing of the written decision.
The new Official fees enter into force on April 1 2020, It may be of interest to applicants to proceed with fee-related actions in advance of the fee increases coming into force.
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