Starting April 1st of this year, the European Patent Office (“EPO”) phases in the second of its fee increases. This increase threatens to have serious financial impacts for patent applicants, especially for startups needing to conserve cash. If you are considering applying for the benefits of patent protection in Europe, or already have an application in progress, there are some things you can do now.

What is it doing?

The European Patent Office (“the EPO”) is increasing its fees in a number of important respects. Most dramatically, the EPO is imposing large new fees for an application that has claims in excess of fifty.

For each claim over fifty, the EPO will charge 500 Euros per claim starting on April 1st, 2009. Read the official notice here.

What are the implications for me?

While the fee increases may not seem dramatic when considered on a per-claim charge, an application with, say, sixty five claims will require an additional fee of $9,534.40 in today’s dollars.

Of note, this follows last year’s dramatic fee increases for applications with more than fifteen claims. (200 Euros for each claim over fifteen.)

Accordingly, if you are considering applying for patent protection in Europe, you may want to consult a patent attorney soon to determine if your application warrants more than the threshold number of claims, and therefore should be expedited to meet the deadline.

What is the EPO?

The EPO is an agency that handles patent applications on behalf of the signatory countries to the European Patent Convention. The EPO does not issue “international patents” because such a thing does not exist. However, a patent granted through the EPO does result in a “bundle” of patents in contracting nations.

The EPO is also different from the “PCT.” The PCT is the Patent Cooperation Treaty which generally provides a procedural framework (administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization) for, among many other things, establishing a priority date of applications.