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
1. As of 14 December 2020 the EPO will add new features to the online service for paying fees by credit card. Moreover, a new functionality will be added to the payment service aimed at facilitating payments by bank transfer.
2. These improvements are an important step towards the goal of providing users with a central service for making and facilitating fee payments, covering all payment methods permitted by the EPO, claiming refunds and managing deposit accounts. This centralised service will significantly improve both the fee payment procedure on the user's side and the processing of payments at the EPO, as it will help to reduce processing times and allow greater flexibility. The EPO will inform users sufficiently in advance before the final implementation of this central payment service.
3. The present notice explains the new features added to the existing service for paying fees by credit card. They comprise an overview of the fees due for a selected application (to support users in selecting fees and paying them correctly and on time), a validation functionality for the selected fees (to prevent users from making erroneous or undue payments and to save the EPO from having to make subsequent refunds), and the possibility to file batch payments in csv and xml format.
4. In addition, the notice explains the new functionality for facilitating bank transfers. This new functionality offers considerable advantages over the existing bank transfer payment procedure such as the possibility to indicate for multiple applications the fees to be paid with a single bank transfer. Users can also expect a quicker and automatic payment reconciliation process and an immediate payment confirmation in the payment history when the payment reaches the EPO's bank account. Moreover, since the process of indicating the fees via the payment service and the actual bank transfer is decoupled, both steps can be completed by different parties (e.g. the representative and the applicant), allowing for more flexibility.
I. Access and conditions of use
5. The conditions for accessing the service are unchanged. Access to the service requires a simple registration with a user name (email address) and a password. No additional authentication is needed.
II. New features and functionalities
6. After selecting the applicable procedure (EP, PCT or, once available, UP) and entering the application number of the patent application or patent concerned,[ 1 ] users can select the fees they intend to pay. Batch payments for multiple applications will be possible by uploading a file in csv or xml format. The payment method, credit card or bank transfer, is selected as a final step at the check-out stage.[ 2 ]
7. The new features of the service are described in sections (a) to (c) below. The procedure to follow when paying by bank transfer is described under point (d).
(a) Overview of procedural fees (new fee group FEES DUE)
8. To meet usersʹ expectations, users will by default be shown the procedural fees due for the selected patent application or patent, based on the information on file. This new fee group is labelled FEES DUE in the fee-group drop-down menu.
9. The information displayed under this fee group includes the fee code,[ 3 ] 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.[ 4 ] 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 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
10. The fee amounts are calculated on the basis of the information on file. Full flexibility is maintained in that 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.
(b) Batch payments
11. Instead of selecting individual fees for payment, users 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.
(c) Validation functionality
12. The payment service includes a new 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 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 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.
(d) Procedure for preparing payments by bank transfer
13. 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. Now 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.
14. 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 is 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.[ 5 ] Once the payment is received, the order status is automatically updated to Paid and the user can download a payment confirmation via the 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.
15. 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 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.
16. 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.
17. This notice enters into force on 14 December 2020 and supersedes the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 23 October 2017 concerning fee payments via bank transfer (OJ EPO 2017, A100).
[ 1 ] For unitary patents the patent number must be indicated.
[ 2 ] 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.
[ 3 ] 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.
[ 4 ] 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.
[ 5 ] 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.