In response to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Patent Office (EPO) has applied a temporary suspension to the payment of the “late fee” for the late payment of a renewal fee. 

Renewal fees for European patent applications are generally due on the last day of the month containing the anniversary of the date of filing of the patent application. These fees are generally payable from the second anniversary onwards. Under normal circumstances, if the renewal fee is not validly paid by the due date, it is still possible to pay the renewal fee “late” within six months of the due date. However, a late fee must then also be paid, at 50% of the cost of the belated renewal fee. This can be especially costly for older patent applications.  

In a notice issued on 29 May (found on the EPO website here), the EPO stated that the late fee has been temporarily suspended until 31 August 2020 inclusive. This means that any renewal fee falling due on or after 15 March 2020 can be validly paid until 31 August 2020 without a late fee. The suspension applies for renewal fees due for European patent applications, European divisional patent applications and Euro-PCT applications. Other limited circumstances may also be eligible, for example where a renewal fee falls due as a result of restoration of a European patent application. 

This effectively extends the deadline for the payment of any European patent application renewal fee due from the 15 March onwards to 31 August 2020. However, this only applies to renewal fees with a due date on or after 15 March 2020. 

If you believe you may be eligible for this suspension, or would like to discuss this further, please get in touch with your usual Greaves Brewster attorney. 

All of the EPO’s notices and related guidance can be found on its website, here.

Although some EPO, EUIPO and UKIPO buildings are officially closed, and some delays are understandable, the offices continue to operate remotely more or less as normal. Where possible, we recommend that applicants and rights holders continue to respect original deadlines and progress cases as usual. 

This update is for general information and does not constitute legal advice. Please get in touch with our patents team or your usual Greaves Brewster contact for advice about how deadlines on specific cases will be affected.