EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE
Notice from the European Patent Office dated 13 July 2021 concerning Central Fee Payment
As of 11 September 2021, the EPO will add a functionality for paying fees via deposit account to the central service for making and facilitating fee payments and claiming refunds – Central Fee Payment.
1. In the Official Journal notice dated 23 November 2020 (OJ EPO 2020, A130) the EPO informed users about improvements to the online service for paying fees by credit card and a new functionality aimed at facilitating payments by bank transfer. These developments were important steps towards the goal of launching a central service for making and facilitating fee payments and claiming refunds.
2. As of 11 September 2021, the central service will be extended to allow users to pay fees in addition via deposit account. This new service will be called Central Fee Payment and is a major milestone along the path to creating a central service for payments. Starting on the above date, Central Fee Payment will provide users with a unique gateway for paying fees and claiming refunds across the entire patent grant procedure and via all permitted payment methods.
3. Migrating all the functionalities available in Online Fee Payment (OFP) is a vast undertaking that has to be done in phases to ensure a smooth transition to the new service and avoid disruption to users. The last of the OFP functionalities – including those related to the management of deposit accounts – will be migrated over the course of 2022. Until that migration is complete, users can continue to submit debit orders via OFP. However, as OFP will be decommissioned soon thereafter, the EPO strongly encourages users to familiarise themselves with Central Fee Payment and start using it as soon as possible.
4. The present notice is intended as a single point of reference for the functionalities provided by Central Fee Payment. To this end, the content of OJ EPO 2020, A130, is replicated in so far as it is still relevant for users. In addition, this notice explains the new functionality for making payments via deposit account. Once implemented in 2022, the remaining functionalities for managing deposit accounts will likewise be reflected in an updated version of this notice.
I. Access to Central Fee Payment and conditions for use
5. Central Fee Payment can be accessed either via a simple registration process with user name (email address) and password or using an EPO smart card. However, users wishing to make use of the new functionality for making payments via deposit account must access Central Fee Payment with their EPO smart card as only then will the option for paying via deposit account be available during the check-out stage of the payment process.
II. Features and functionalities of Central Fee Payment
6. After selecting the applicable procedure (PCT, EPC or, once available, UP) and entering the application number of the patent application or patent concerned, users can select the fees they intend to pay. Batch payments for multiple applications are possible by uploading a file in csv or xml format. The payment method – credit card, bank transfer or deposit account – can be selected as a final step at the check-out stage.1 The option to pay via deposit account will only be available for selection when accessing Central Fee Payment with an EPO smart card.
7. Central Fee Payment's new functionality for paying fees via deposit account is explained in section (a) below. A description of the specific features of the service follows in sections (b) to (d). The procedure to follow when paying by bank transfer is described in section (e).
(a) Payments via deposit account
8. As the migration of all OFP functionalities will take place in two phases (see point 3), users will initially only be able to file debit orders for individual fees for one or more applications, i.e. a single or a batch debit order. The possibility to submit debit orders with a deferred payment date as well as automatic debit orders will be added in 2022, during the second phase of the migration.
9. After selecting "deposit account" as the payment method at the check-out stage (see point 6), users will be invited to select the deposit account from which the fees are to be debited. All deposit accounts linked to the EPO smart card that was used to access Central Fee Payment will be displayed in a drop-down menu and can be selected by the user.
10. As soon as a debit order is submitted, i.e. by confirming the order, a printable order confirmation is made available in the fee order history. Provided there are sufficient funds in the selected deposit account on the date the order is submitted via Central Fee Payment, that date will be considered as the date on which the payment is made. If there are insufficient funds in the account on that date, the EPO will book the fees according to point 5.2.2 of the Arrangements for deposit accounts (ADA). Provided that the deposit account contains sufficient funds to book all fees, a printable payment confirmation is made available in the fee order history and the debit order is simultaneously visible as a booked transaction in Online Fee Payment. If the deposit account contains insufficient funds the printable payment confirmation will be made available once the account has been replenished to cover all fees in the submitted order.
(b) Overview of procedural fees (fee group FEES DUE)
11. In Central Fee Payment, the procedural fees due for the selected patent application or patent are displayed by default based on the information on file. This fee group is labelled FEES DUE in the fee-group drop-down menu.
12. The information displayed under this fee group includes the fee code,2 a fee description, the fee amount as well as the due date. The date indicated as the Due Date is the last day of the period for making the payment.3 Some fees, such as the examination fee (fee code 006) or the designation fee (fee code 005) are shown without a due date, unless the event triggering the calculation of the period for paying the fee has already taken place. The following fees are not displayed under the fee group FEES DUE and must therefore be selected by selecting the relevant fee group:
- 010 Opposition fee
- 011 Appeal fee
- 014 Conversion fee
- 017 Fee for the request of a decision on the fixing of costs by the opposition division (Rule 88(3) EPC)
- 018 Fee for the conservation of evidence
- 022 Registration of transfer
- 023 Registration or cancellation of licences and other rights
- 030 Communication of information from the files
- 060 Fee for a technical opinion
13. The fee amounts are calculated on the basis of the information on file. Users can change the fee amount indicated by selecting Edit. This function can, for example, be used if a user does not want to pay all of the additional search fees in case there is a finding of non-unity of invention. The responsibility for the correctness of edited fee amounts ultimately lies with the user.
(c) Batch payments
14. Instead of selecting individual fees for payment, users of Central Fee Payment can upload fee payment files ("batch payments") by selecting Upload fee payments file in the Fees drop-down menu. Fee payment files can be uploaded in xml format or as csv files. Once uploaded, users can still edit the fee amounts and add further individual payments by selecting Continue paying fees.
(d) Validation functionality
15. Central Fee Payment includes a validation functionality to automatically reject, at the check-out stage, orders for fees included in a batch payment or selected individually that would represent a double payment of fees, the payment of renewal fees (and associated additional fees) for "definitively closed" applications or granted patents, or payments for transfers of rights in respect of such applications. The same applies to the payment of renewal fees before the applicable earliest valid payment date (Rule 51(1) EPC). A patent application is considered to be definitively closed if (i) the application is withdrawn or is finally deemed to be withdrawn or the application is finally refused and no means of redress except a request for re-establishment of rights has been filed, (ii) a decision on the means of redress is negative and no appeal has been filed, or (iii) a decision on an appeal is negative or the appeal is withdrawn. The validation occurs at the check-out stage, before users select the intended payment method.
(e) Procedure for preparing payments by bank transfer
16. In the past, users were required to make a separate bank transfer for each application, indicating the fee code(s) to be paid in the payment reference. When using Central Fee Payment, users can pay for multiple applications with a single bank transfer if they first submit an order for the payment of selected fees and then follow the procedure described below. By linking the bundle of fees selected in the order with a unique payment reference, the payment received by the EPO can be automatically assigned to the applications, patents and fees selected by the user.
17. When users select Bank transfer as the payment method at the check-out stage and confirm the order, an order number is generated and displayed together with an order summary. The user then receives a (printable) order confirmation with a payment reference consisting of the order number, a check digit and a prefix. This payment reference allows the EPO to assign a payment to the respective fees selected for one or more applications or patents at the Select group and fees stage. It is therefore essential that the payment reference as shown in the order confirmation be correctly indicated in the bank transfer. The order confirmation shows the order date, the total amount of the selected fees, the name of the user making the order, the number(s) of the patent application(s) and/or patent(s) concerned, a list of all the individual fees selected for payment and an order status. The order status is Submitted until the payment reaches the EPO's bank account.4 Once the payment is received, the order status is automatically updated to Paid and the user can download a payment confirmation via the fee order history function. As soon as the payment confirmation is available, users can be certain that the EPO has received the payment. The payment confirmation can be used as a proof of payment in dealings with third parties, e.g. tax authorities.
18. A payment reference can only be used once and is valid for two months following the order confirmation. If no payment can be assigned to an order within this period, the order will be cancelled automatically. Orders cannot be cancelled by the user. The status of the order will be updated to Cancelled in the fee order history. Payments received for cancelled orders or orders with no or incorrect payment references cannot be assigned automatically to a specific order and will be handled manually by the EPO. Delays in the processing of the payment as a result of the manual handling may cause a delay in the patent grant procedure. Users are therefore strongly advised to make their bank transfers as soon as possible after having confirmed the order.
19. If the payment that reaches the EPO's bank account does not correspond to the total amount of fees selected in the order, it will be booked to the fees in ascending order of application numbers (PCT before EP) and in ascending order of fee codes, for as long as the payment received allows. The payment confirmation will indicate which fees have been paid and which fees have not been paid or have only been paid in part as a result of the underpayment. To ensure the proper reconciliation of bank payments, users must submit a new order to redress any unintended underpayment situation identified in the payment confirmation. The same applies if the number of fees intended for payment changes after finalisation of the order procedure. In this case, users must submit a new order for any additional fees not included in the first order.
20. This notice enters into force on 11 September 2021 and supersedes the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 23 November 2020 concerning improvements in the online service for paying fees by credit card and the introduction of a new functionality facilitating payments by bank transfer (OJ EPO 2020, A130).
1 For credit card payments, reference is made to points 8 to 12 of the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 13 May 2020 concerning the payment of fees by credit card (OJ EPO 2020, A62). The conditions established by Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 22 August 2017 concerning the payment of fees by credit card (OJ EPO 2017, A72) continue to apply for credit card payments.
2 See the description of fee codes published in the Schedule of fees and expenses applicable as from 1 April 2020 (OJ EPO 2020, supplementary publication 3). Since the additional fee for a European patent application comprising more than 35 pages (fee codes 501 and 520) forms part of the filing fee, it is booked together with the filing fee.
3 Please note that the definition of the due date in this context differs from the definition used under the EPC. Under the EPC, the due date corresponds to the first day of the period for making a payment.
4 Payments are to be made in euro to the bank account of the European Patent Office at the Commerzbank, IBAN DE20 7008 0000 0333 8800 00, BIC DRESDEFF700, Commerzbank AG, Leopoldstrasse 230, 80807 Munich, Germany.