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I'm participating in some EQE training and there is this question/answer:

Most fees for European patent applications cannot be paid before their due date. One exception is renewal fees, which can always be paid up to:

  1. Three months before the due date.
  2. Six months before the due date.
  3. One year before the due date.

Answer The correct answer is 1. Renewal fees for European patent applications may be validly paid up to three months before the due date. For the renewal fee for the third year, answer 2 is also correct. This special rule for the 3rd renewal fee was made to allow for the payment of this fee on entry into the regional phase (Rule 51(1) EPC, implementing Article 86(1) EPC).

While I can find a lot of stuff about the fees and so on I can't find any information about these three months. Where do I find them?

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The legal provision is Rule 51.1 EPC: "[...] A renewal fee for the European patent application in respect of the coming year shall be due on the last day of the month containing the anniversary of the date of filing of the European patent application. The renewal fee in respect of the third year may not be validly paid more than six months before it falls due. All other renewal fees may not be validly paid more than three months before they fall due."

The 6-month part was added in 2018 as indicated in the Official Journal.

In the Guidelines for Examination there are some examples regarding payment of renewal fees.

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  • Thanks a lot! I absolutely don't understand the structure of the articles, rules, laws and so on there.. I mean why is this listed under "Implementing regulations" and not within "Rules relating to Fees"? Is there somewhere a scheme or so to visualize/make the "organisation" of these things more vividly?
    – Ben
    Sep 24 at 6:59
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    @Ben I'd say annotated versions of the EPC, and even with those it is quite cumbersome (albeit not as cumbersome as the PCT) to figure everything out. You should get yourself at least one book of the annotated EPC (e.g. Visser's Annotated European Patent Convention, Hoekstra's References to the European Patent Convention, etc.) if sitting the EQE. Amendment of Articles is much more complicated than amendment of Rules (see e.g. Art. 33 EPC), so in principle Rules specify due dates so that they can be more easily changed. Sep 24 at 13:14
  • thanks for the comment/hints!
    – Ben
    Sep 27 at 7:40

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