The underlying policy of the renewal fee is to encourage patent holders to abandon patent rights that they are not exploiting.
In most countries renewal fees can be reduced - typically by half - if the patent holder declares that he is prepared to grant a licence (royalty paying) to anyone who asks. Large patent holders are better at managing their budgets by using this system.
However the answer to my question is really that they finance the Patent Offices as the application fees represent only a fraction of the real cost of examining a patent application.
Many overseas applicants for European patents put responsibility for the annual renewal fees with fee payment bureaus. Its cheaper, they say - but it isn't when the application is abandoned during that long period when the file is awaiting examination. If you want to give up an application before the search or supplementary search arrives, you can have that fee back. If its before the examination report turns up, you can have at least 75% of the examination fee back under the EPO Fees Rules . Have you had that from an fee payment bureau? No.
There are 27 countries in the European Union and you can get a patent in any of them through the European Patent Office (which covers 38 countries in all). If language problems are to blame for the absence of a Community Patent, what is the reason why an EU patent holder has to waste resources engaging a network of local providers just to pay renewal fees. It is unproductive.
While you have a European Patent Application you will pay renewal fees to maintain the application direct to the EPO. After the patent is granted, the system is that the renewal fees are paid to each National Patent Office and they pay half of the proceeds back to the EPO. If the EPO continued to collect one renewal fee it could send the proceeds back to the National Offices. If the EPO provided a credit card interface for allowing the patent holder to deal with the renewal, it would be even better. WIPO can do it for International Trademark Registrations, why not the EPO. The EPO offers information on the fees that need to be paid and how to pay them. Transferring small amounts of cash even in Euro is not a service your High Street Bank excels at. We recommend opening an account with TransGlobal Payment Solutions if you want to do this regularly.
The EPO estimated in 2005 that between the 5th and 10th anniversary of a patent valid in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland (the six most frequently designated countries in the EPO) the patent holder will pay €4700 to Patent Offices and €5300 to others to pay them. Frankly patent attorneys should be spending their time on adding value to the innovation process not on acting as expensive money transfer agents.
The links below go to the most relevant page of the National Patent Office websites. The ones in large print allow you to pay the fee with a credit card. Congratulations Ireland and Sweden.
Now most of these Patent Offices have Bank Accounts so you can in principle pay direct to the Office, but they need to be able to reconcile your payment with the right patent. That is the reason for the procedures such as the UK's requirement for a form and a fee sheet but at least anyone in the EU can pay. The Irish have shown that a simple web interface is possible so I challenge the rest of Europe to follow so this page can be updated. Read on to see that Europe is lagging the rest of the world.
An excellent interface for dealing with all your IP renewals by credit card.
The USPTO Public Pair System allows you to pay maintenance fees by credit card and it works out the amount due and your payment window. If you want to claim a reduction as a small entity and that is not the status on the register you will need help from A US attorney. US fees are large but they are only payable three times during the life of the patent.
As the owner of IP, it is important to maintain a line of communication between the agent on the register for your IP and yourself. Ditching your local Patent attorney once the IP is granted may break the chain of communication. The communication link is important so that you are aware if anyone challenges the validity of the IP. Many trademarks in particular are lost for lack of communication.
However many attorneys seem to ditch the owners and hand over to a faceless annuity organisation.
Contact me to let me know if I have errors on this page.
Filemot Technology Law Ltd
25 Southampton Buildings
London, WC2A 1AL, United Kingdom
Direct +44 (0)20 3043 8550
Fax +44 (0)20 3043 8551
Copyright 02 January 2011