Changes to fees for UK patent applications from 6 April 2018

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has recently announced that it will be increasing the official fees on UK patent applications on 6 April 2018 as well as some of the renewal fees needed to keep granted UK patents in force.

In short, the fee increases will be relatively small for most UK patent applications and are unlikely to affect patent application strategy for UK-based patent applicants. The modest fee increases reflect the UK Government’s ongoing commitment to affordable UK patent protection but will increase costs for certain types of patent applications or patent application strategies that are more time-consuming for the UKIPO to handle.

What fees will change?

The fee increases will affect both paper and electronic filings of patent applications. All fees for paper filings will be higher than electronic filings and we will continue our standard electronic filing practice for all clients.

For all e-filed applications, there will be a minimum increase in total application fees of £80 as follows:

• Increase to the application fee from £20 to £60, and introduction of a 25% surcharge if it is not paid at the time of filing.
• Increase to the official search fees from £130 to £150
• Increase to the substantive examination fee from £80-£100

However, the UKIPO has also introduced two new additional fees:

• Excess claims fees of £20 for each claim over 25 (payable with the search fee)
• Excess pages fee of £10 for each page of description over 35 (payable with the examination fee)

This means that longer patent applications and longer sets of claims will incur higher costs on a sliding scale.

Why the fee changes?

The fee increases are clearly intended to apply a small increase to all applications to cover operational costs of the UKIPO. For example, the UKIPO expends effort processing all incoming patent applications, whatever their quality. Therefore, the increase in the application fee and the encouragement to pay the application fee upon filing the application, will help to cover the cost of those services.

The excess claims fees and excess pages fees, whilst new for the UKIPO, are a common feature of official fee structures at other patent offices around the world. They will apply additional charges to patent applications that are more time consuming for the UKIPO to search and examine.

Considerations for UK patent practice

For some existing UK patent applications, and planned patent applications, it will be worth paying official fees before the due fee increase on 6 April 2018.

The European Patent Office already applies far higher excess claims fees for each claim over 15 as well as excess pages fees for each page over 35. Our typical drafting practice is to avoid an excessive page or claim count for this reason. For most patent applications for a single invention the new UK claims and pages fees will not apply.

However, there are certain types of patent applications that demand longer descriptions, such as patent applications for chemical compounds which require numerous examples to justify the scope of claims. The additional fees for those applications may therefore be unavoidable to some extent.

There is also a patent filing strategy of initially drafting a ‘catch all’ patent application to catch multiple, or else filing a lengthy application if the applicant is not yet sure where the commercially valuable invention lies. Whilst these strategies may incur additional official fees in the future, the moderate additional cost will typically be outweighed by the potential commercial benefit of these strategies, which serve to preserve the applicant’s potential rights.

Perhaps the biggest fee increase will be for overseas patent applicants entering the UK, whose patent applications may have been drafted in a territory where patent drafting practice differs significantly from our own.

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