This Kat's flea-themed post last week concerning several developments at the European Patent Office elicited several useful comments about other developments at the EPO. In addition to the news about the change in arrangements for language related fee reductions (see bear-themed item just posted here), George Brock-Nannestad pointed out that the EPO is changing the arrangements for deposit accounts, but reporting that "I have tried in vain to obtain background information on this measure from Treasury and Accounting, but I was merely referred to a forthcoming publication of the rules at the end of February."
Well, Katfriend Peter Arrowsmith (Cleveland) has alerted to the IPKat to the publication of an announcement about this. This will apparently be formally "published together with an EPO notice in a supplementary publication to the EPO's March 2014 Official Journal". In the meantime, the relevant change seems to be:
Abolition of administrative fee for insufficient deposit account funds
The administrative fee will be abolished. Accordingly, points 6.5, 6.6 and 6.7 of the ADA themselves, points 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 and 9 of their Annex A.1 and point 3.7 of their Annex B.1 have been deleted or amended.
Please note that, under point 5.2 ADA, deposit account holders must ensure that their accounts always contain sufficient funds for timely processing of their debit orders.
As in the past, if your account lacks sufficient funds your debit order will be processed only once the account has been suitably replenished. The date of payment will be that of the replenishment (i.e. it will no longer be possible to backdate it by paying the administrative fee). If the date of payment is after the time limit for paying the fee, the general provisions of the European Patent Convention (e.g. Rule 51(2) and Article 121(1) EPC) apply.
Users of the automatic debiting procedure in particular should always ensure that their accounts contain sufficient funds, because under this procedure the fees are generally debited on the last day of the period for payment.
|The IPKat never runs out of money|
It seems that the EPO is going to discontinue its administrative fee for insufficient deposit account funds. As you know, the current practice of the EPO effectively permits a deposit account to go “overdrawn”. Under this system you can spend more than your account’s balance provided you pay an administrative fee within a deadline that they set. This system is helpful to applicants because it allows a fee to be paid validly even if the account is accidentally depleted. From 1 April the administrative fee will be abolished. After this date a fee will only be considered to have been paid once the deposit account is replenished.
Incidentally, the new EPO approach is similar to the current approach of the UK-IPO.This Kat thinks that it is rather odd to treat as the "abolition of a fee" what is in effect the withdrawal of a service - the ability to excuse the lack of sufficient funds in a deposit account. Users are going to have to take great care, especially if they use the automatic debiting procedure. In fact, this Kat endorses the comments of George Brock-Nannestad, who wrote of the system that is being withdrawn from April:
Provided you keep your account in funds, any applications you enter will automatically have all its fees paid on the last day in the payment window. The safety net is that if there is a shortfall on that day, you get a Notification and a one-month deadline to replenish and pay a supplementary ‘admininstrative’ fee. If the replenishment is sufficient to cover both the missing amount and the fee, the payment is backdated to the intended payment date.
This is a safety net that has enabled one to avoid the expensive 50% surcharge if an unexpected shortfall has occurred. It is probably of the greatest advantage to small EPAs, because it avoids locking excess funds in the account to cover any contingency. Possibly it has been abused by big firms, but instead of raising the cap of the administrative fee, this safety net is being abolished entirely. It is touted as a removal of a fee, but that is an effect, not the cause.This Kat suspects that users will lament the passing of this system. Do his dear readers agree?