February 16, 2024

Discounts & Subsidies for Patent Filing

By Dr. Dimitris Kouzelis

European Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) represent over 99% of European businesses and contribute to 67% of total employment. For this reason, the two most significant organizations for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights in Europe have decided to assist SMEs with the following discounts and subsidies:

Discount on EPO Fees

The first measure concerns a discount on the fees of the European Patent Office (EPO),is addressed to entities with little or no experience in the European patent system and will have the following characteristics:

  • The discount will be 30% on filing, search, examination, designation and renewal fees,
  • The measure is applicable to very small and small businesses, natural persons, non-profit organizations, universities, and public research organizations,
  • The applicant must have submitted fewer than five applications in the five years preceding the application date,
  • The application/declaration must be submitted no later than the fee payment date,
  • The discount will apply to fees paid after April 1, 2024

As the EPO will not require certificates regarding the size of their business, applicants simply need to explicitly declare their status as a very small business, SME, natural person, non-profit organization, university, or public research organization. However, the EPO may subsequently conduct random checks.

The full decision of the EPO was published in the Official Journal on January 31, 2024, and can be found here.

Subsidies from EUIPO for drafting and filing applications

The Intellectual Property Office of the European Union (EUIPO), primarily responsible for registering trademarks and industrial designs, offers up to 3.500€ in funding for European patent applications.

This funding or subsidy, also targets entities with little or no experience in the European system and covers the following expenses:

  • Study of the existing technical level (Prior Art Search)
  • Filing and search fees of European Patents submitted to the EPO or the national offices
  • Expenses of a Certified European Patent Attorney for drafting and filing the application
  • The measure applies to all Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) located in the European Union.

The eligibility requirements for participation in the EUIPO program, as well as financial assistance for other Intellectual Property matters (trademarks, industrial designs, etc.), are detailed here.

Please note that the definition of SMEs, i.e., Small, Medium, and Micro-sized Enterprises, has been provided by the European Union here. In brief, the enterprise must have fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover of less than 50 million euros.

The correct, strategically sound process of securing an idea through a patent can be costly. It involves not only national but primarily international filings with the European Patent Office (EPO) and/or through the PCT process. Subsequently, the application undergoes examination in a large number of Patent Offices, often in languages other than English. This process can only be effectively navigated with the assistance of specialized Patent Attorneys. These attorneys will determine the filing strategy, support the European application, and collaborate with attorneys from third countries (such as the USA, Japan, China, etc.) for complete protection in the major markets.

The above measures are considered particularly favorable for the (small) innovation community in our country (Greece), mainly consisting of research centers and startups, as they assist in initiating the patenting process. Subsequently, once receiving a positive response from the EPO, the applicant will need to seek capital from third parties to smoothly progress with the patenting. Large enterprises are the only ones excluded from these measures, as, in any way, they are not active in Intellectual Property in our country and do not invest in technological development, and consequently, in securing their innovation with patents.

The United States, despite strongly supporting free-market principles and not implementing interventionist policies, has, for many years, introduced significant fee discounts for small and micro-sized enterprises, leading to a surge in the number of startups filing patents. Many of these have grown into global technological giants, such as Microsoft, Google, Tesla, Apple, etc. The European Union is ultimately following the United States in a key area, such as funding for Intellectual Property protection, hoping that, in combination with other measures, it can create its own Silicon Valley.

Dr. Dimitris Kouzelis

Dr. Dimitris Kouzelis is a European Patent Attorney, former Director at the European Patent Office, co-founder of Intellex, representative of SEV at Business Europe, member of the Scientific Advisory Council (TES), and President of the Intellectual Property Committee at ICC-Hellas