Any entrepreneur who wants to retain a patent has to pay an annual renewal fee to the government. In recent months many entrepreneurs have suffered financial setbacks which can make it difficult them for them to pay this fee. Together with a number of colleagues I have been looking for a way to help this group. Thanks to our recommendations, an emergency law came into force on 21 July which will hopefully give many entrepreneurs some extra breathing space.
No surcharge on renewal fee while emergency law is in force
The renewal fee has to be paid before a payment deadline. In the Netherlands if you fail to make this payment on time, you still have six months to renew the patent. However, a surcharge, a fine of 50% of the renewal fee, is applied if this is the case. This was particularly tough on entrepreneurs who were unable to pay the fee due to the coronavirus crisis.
Thanks to the new emergency law, this surcharge has temporarily been set at 0% (nil) for Dutch patents for which the payment deadline expired between 1 April 2020 and 31 August 2020. In practical terms, this means you can defer payment of the renewal fee, free of charge, for six months if you have to or have had to pay it during this period.
If you have already paid the renewal fee on time, nothing will change for you. If you have already paid the fee plus the 50% surcharge, it is expected that the Netherlands Patent Office will refund the surcharges already paid.
Deadlines at risk
In addition to the deadline for payment of the renewal fee, the coronavirus crisis is also putting some other important deadlines for innovative entrepreneurs at risk. For this reason, the emergency law temporarily gives the director of the Netherlands Patent Office the authority to extend deadlines under the Dutch Patents Act. This will take place with retroactive effect from 12 March 2020. It is not clear yet which deadlines will be affected and how long they are going to be extended by. However, I do expect these decisions to be taken very quickly.
Possible extension of the emergency law
In principle, the emergency law will expire on 1 September, but it can still then be extended by a further two months if it is deemed necessary to do so. We will keep a close eye on developments for you and inform you as soon as more information becomes available. If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact your patent attorney.