Multiple patentees have to pay separate appeal fees for joint appeal: Decision “Set of building bricks” by the German Federal Court of Justice (FCJ)

Official Headnotes:

a) If multiple patentees file an appeal against the decision of the German Patent and Trademark Office (GPTO) in opposition proceedings, each one has to pay an appeal fee (Law on Patent Fees No. 401 100). 

b) If for an appeal lodged by multiple participants only one appeal fee has been paid, it has to be examined whether the paid fee can be assigned to one appellant. 

In the decided case “Set of building bricks” an opposition was filed against the patentin suit which was jointly owned by two patentees. The opposition was successful and the patent was revoked by the patent department of the GPTO. The two patentees jointly filed an appeal against the revokation decision but paid only one fee. The Federal Patent Court dismissed the appeal as inadmissible on the ground that the one appeal fee paid cannot be assigned to one of the two joint appellants and therefore none has paid the necessary fees.

The joint patentees lodged a further appeal for legal review (“Rechtsbeschwerde”) with the FCJ and were successful. The FCJ confirmed the first instance decision that the two patentees had to pay two appeal fees for their joint appeal, but that in order to avoid hardship a single appeal fee is to be assigned to one of multiple appellants whenever possible. The was done by the FCJ based on the name of the first appellant on the money transfer form filed with the Federal Patent Court. Consequently the case was remitted back to the Federal Patent Court for decision on the merits.

This deision is important for all applicants before the GPTO because the FCJ made it clear that joint right holders (not only of patents, but also of utility models, trade marks and designs) have to pay separate fees for appeals and similar legal remedies explicitly enumerated in the Law on Patent Fees. The FCJ confirmed that the regulations in the Law on Patent Fees do not distinguish between right holders and opponents or other third parties. Under this reasoning seperate appeal fees for joint appeals therefore have to be paid not only in contradictory proceedings like oppositions but also in the most common appeal procedure, namely an appeal against the rejection of a patent application by the GPTO.

The ruling is in contradiction to hitherto common practice at the GPTO and the Federal Pastent Court requiring the payment of only one appeal fee for a joint appeal of multiple patentees. It is also contrary to the law and practice at the EPO and that in patent nullity proceedings.

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