https://www.epo.org/en/node/am-i-eligible-micro

Am I eligible for micro-entity fee reductions?

You need to be a micro-entity with only a small number of applications (“cap”).

To qualify for an (additional) 30% reduction in the main fees payable throughout the patent granting process, you must:

  1. be considered a “micro-entity” (see below); and
  2. have filed fewer than five patent applications with the EPO over the past five years (“cap”).

This fee reduction is new and available for fee payments as of 1 April 2024.

In more detail:

Micro-entity

The applicant must be a micro-entity, which means:

  • (a) a microenterprise; 
  • (b) a natural person (i.e. an individual);
  • (c) a non-profit organisation, university or public research organisation (detailed definitions can be found in OJ EPO 2024, A8).

If there is of more than one applicant, all applicants need to fulfil this condition.

A microenterprise is defined as an enterprise which employs fewer than 10 full-time persons and an annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total of up to EUR 2 million.

In case of doubt about how to calculate staff numbers and these financial amounts, in particular if you have partner/linked enterprises, you can find more details on the definition of a microenterprise in the European Commission recommendation 2003/361/EC.

Cap: how the limit on applications works

To be eligible for a fee reduction for an application, an applicant must have filed fewer than five applications in the five years before the relevant date of that application.

The relevant date depends on the type of application:

  • (a) for European direct applications, it is the date of filing
  • (b) for Euro-PCT applications, it is the date of entry into the European phase
  • (c) for divisional applications, it is the date of receipt.

If there is more than one applicant, all applicants must fulfil this condition.

The reduction applies to fee payments due on or after 1 April 2024 irrespective of the filing date of the application.

The purpose of the cap is to direct support via fee reductions to less experienced users. It is therefore irrelevant whether previous applications received support, and whether these applications are still pending, have been withdrawn or are deemed withdrawn, or have been refused, or whether a related patent was granted.

The EPO will check the cap systematically. More information on what happens if the EPO detects that the cap has been exceeded can be found under “What happens if I wrongly pay a reduced amount?”

Cap: examples

  • Example 1: A micro-entity which regularly files two applications per year will not be entitled to any reduction, because there will be approximately ten previous applications in the five-year periods of each application, and so the cap of a maximum of four applications would be exceeded.
  • Example 2: A micro-entity which files one application every two years will be entitled to a reduction for all applications, as there will be only two previous applications in the five-year period.
  • Example 3: The third example shows how to verify the cap conditions in a more complex case, taking the relevant date of each application, including a Euro-PCT application, into account. All applications listed below would be eligible for micro-entity fee reductions:

Figure 1 showing table

However, if there were another application with a relevant date between the relevant dates of D and E, then applications E and F would no longer be eligible, as there would now be five applications in their respective five-year periods.

These examples are intended to illustrate how to correctly apply the cap. You are encouraged not to request fee reductions when it is obvious that you have exceeded the cap.

Transfer of an application

Transferred applications will be considered in the light of their new owner’s circumstances as of the effective date of the transfer.

In view of the cap on eligible applications, there may be rare cases where a transfer means that other applications filed by the new owner are no longer eligible, while applications filed by the old owner become eligible.

Starting from example 3 above

Figure 2 showing table

and assuming that an application D1 with the relevant date 15-04-2023 is transferred to the applicant, the table would then be as follows:

Figure 3 showing table

For payments after the effective transfer date, applications E and F would no longer be eligible for fee reductions. The transferred application D1 would be eligible, but a new request would need to be filed.

For the applicant who transferred the application to the new owner, it might have the reverse effect that one or more applications that were previously not eligible for fee reductions now become eligible. The applicant would then need to request those fee reductions.

Transfers of granted patents do not affect the cap.