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European patents at affordable prices

Under the present regime, European patents, after grant by the EPO, must be validated individually in each country for which patent protection is sought. This results in significant administrative and financial overheads for companies, especially SMEs.

For this reason, European patents are currently validated on average in only three or four of the participating member states. This leaves companies without protection in other European countries, and vulnerable to potentially illicit copying of their inventions there. It is thus an obstacle to the creation of a genuinely uniform European market for innovation, and puts European companies at a disadvantage compared to their competitors, especially in the USA and Asia, which can access their significant national or regional markets more easily and at lower cost before marketing their inventions on the global stage.

For this reason, the creation of a unitary patent for the EU member states is an important step, and one that has been expected for more than 40 years. With this first decision of the Select Committee on renewal fees, completion of the system for unitary patent protection in Europe is now in sight.

What is the size of the cost reduction under the True Top 4 proposal? For the first ten years - the average lifetime of a European patent - the cost of renewing a unitary patent will be less than EUR 5 000, and the cumulative total to be paid for maintaining it over the full 20-year term will be just over EUR 35 500 (cf. table below). For comparison, the amounts payable under the current system in the same 25 member states add up to EUR 29 500 for the first ten years, and nearly EUR 159 000 for the full 20 years. In other words, the fee scale now endorsed for the unitary patent under the True Top 4 proposal corresponds to a reduction of 78% compared to the current situation.

Read entire EPO article