Patent Renewal Basics

This is a guide to the basics of patent renewals. Further, more detailed, information can be found throughout this Knowledge Base.

 

What are patent renewal fees?

Renewal fees are official costs levied by patent offices. These official fees must be paid to the given patent office over the lifetime of the patent, usually in regular increments – mostly yearly. Most patents have a standard life span of twenty years. If you do not pay the renewal fees, your patent right will lapse and become unenforceable. Depending on the country/jurisdiction of your patent, you may only need to pay renewal fees after grant (or some other specified event) or it may be necessary to pay fees from filing of the case, regardless of the progress of your patent application towards grant.

 

What are patent maintenance fees?

They are the same as patent renewal fees; this is simply alternative terminology. Across the globe, they are given a lot of different names, including patent maintenance fees, patent annual fees and patent annuities.

 

When do renewal fees become due?

It depends on the patent office. Most offices require annual payments after a certain point in the patent’s lifetime (for example, from a given anniversary counting from the filing or grant of the patent). Others, such as the US, require only a few payments over the lifetime of the patent. In some countries you can pre-pay all remaining years to keep your patent in force for the maximum possible number of years, though most offices limit how far in advance you can pay patent renewal fees. With RenewalsDesk, you can see when the next payment is due for each patent, and how much it will be.

 

How much are the patent office fees?

Renewal fees are determined by each Patent Office. They vary greatly between countries and can be affected by the age of the patent, the number of claims the patent contains, the size of your organisation, and whether you have registered your patent as licensed for use by others.

 

Why do I have to pay patent renewal fees?

The requirement for a renewal fee to keep a patent alive means that companies will only renew patents that provide some commercial benefit. If renewal fees are not paid, the patent lapses and other firms can take advantage of the formerly protected content. Without patent fees, all patents would automatically be in force for the maximum number of years, which would stifle innovation and development. In general terms, patent renewals satisfy a public policy objective that restriction of competition should be minimised, and encourages the return of the protected intellectual property to the public domain.

 

What are service charges and how much are they?

Service charges are the processing fees charged by businesses (both in the form of law firms that file and prosecute patents and in the form of non-law firm agencies which specialise in the payment of renewal fees) in order to determine and advise patent owners of the relevant deadlines and official fees, and for attending to payment of those renewal fees in the required jurisdictions. Whilst in theory, specialist renewal payment agencies should be more cost effective as they achieve substantial efficiencies in the renewal payment processes, some providers charge very high fees and are in effect not really more cost effective than law firms. Some unscrupulous providers set hidden fees over and above what they describe as their “service charge”, meaning that the actual charges collected by the provider can be much higher than they appear (in some cases many times higher). RenewalsDesk believes in transparency and we show you the actual fee paid to the patent office so that you can see for yourself what our charges are.

 

How do I pay the fees?

Fees must be paid to the Patent Office. This can be done by instructing your local attorney to instruct other attorneys overseas to make the payments on your behalf. Or you can use a specialist agency like RenewalsDesk who you deal with directly, and which deals directly with many patent offices, allowing you to avoid expensive and unnecessary middlemen.