SME Fund 2024
The SME Fund 2024 can provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the opportunity to request a partial reimbursement for costs related to intellectual property rights. This reimbursement can be granted via four types of vouchers.
Voucher 1: ip scan & ip scan enforcement
Voucher 1 can be used in connection with IP scans. IP scans are not legal advice, but identify your intellectual properties and teach you how to incorporate an IP strategy into your company’s business plan. Voucher 1 reimburses 90% of the costs of an IP scan with a total maximum reimbursable amount of EUR 1 350.
Once you have received the grant decision for voucher 1, you can contact your national intellectual property office in your country. They will then assign an IP expert to work with you on the IP scan.
An IP scan is not offered in all EU Member States under the SME Fund. Some national intellectual property offices offer similar IP pre-diagnostic services outside the scope of the SME Fund. Which national offices do and do not offer IP scans covered by the SME Fund can be consulted here. In Belgium, for example, IP scans are not eligible for refunds via voucher 1, but as an alternative a pre-diagnostic intellectual property analysis, subsidised by the Office for Intellectual Property (“Dienst voor Intellectuele eigendom, DIE”). More info about this pre-diagnostic intellectual property analysis can be consulted here: Prediagnostische dienst voor intellectuele eigendom | FOD Economie (fgov.be).
Besides IP scan services, voucher 1 can also be used in connection with IP scan enforcement. IP Scan enforcement covers the possible infringement risks of a broad range of IP rights: patents, trademarks, designs, utility models, plant varieties, geographical indications, and non-registered/non-registerable assets such as trade secrets, copyrights and unregistered designs. Voucher 1 reimburses 90% of the costs of addressing existing or potential conflicts related to IP rights infringement, up to a maximum amount of EUR 1 350.
As was the case for the IP scan services, IP scan enforcement services are also not offered in all EU Member States under the SME Fund.
Voucher 2: trademark & design
Costs concerning trademark & design related activities can be reimbursed for up to 75%, with a maximum reimbursable amount of EUR 1 000.
A refund can be requested for the following activities:
- 75 % reimbursement of EU trademark and/or Community design application fees, additional class fees, and examination, registration, publication, and deferment of publication fees.
- 75 % reimbursement of national or regional trademark and/or design application fees, additional class fees, and examination, registration, publication, and deferment of publication fees.
- 50 % reimbursement of international trademark (Madrid) and/or design (The Hague) basic application fees, designation fees, and subsequent designation fees including EU countries. Handling fees charged by the office of origin are excluded.
Voucher 3: patents
SMEs can receive a 75% reimbursement for costs of official fees related to filing, search, publication and grant of a national patent application or for costs of prior art searches. The maximum reimbursable amount is EUR 1 500.
On top of this, voucher 3 can also be used at the European level. Not only can it reimburse 75% of the costs related to the official filing and search fees up to a maximum reimbursable amount of EUR 1 500, the voucher can also be used to reimburse some of the costs for drafting and filing your European patent applications. 50% of your European drafting and filing costs are reimbursed via the voucher, up to a maximum amount of EUR 2 000. Note, however, that this drafting and filing needs to be done by a European patent attorney in order for you to benefit from the reimbursement.
Voucher 3 only pertains to European patents and national patents in the 27 Member States of the European Union. International patent applications submitted via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) are not covered under the SME Fund 2024.
A refund can be requested for the following activities:
- 75% reimbursement of the fees for a “Prior Art Search Report”: The report, prior to a patent application, is performed worldwide and must be conducted by a national IP office of an EU Member State or by the Visegrad Patent Institute;
- 75% reimbursement of patent pre-grant (filing search, and examination), grant, and publication fees for national protection in an EU Member State (such as for example, in Belgium);
- 75% reimbursement of filing and search fees for European patents filed at the EPO. All other official fees for a European patent are excluded.
- 50% reimbursement of the drafting and filing costs for a European patent application performed by a European patent Attorney.
Thus, patent related fees eligible for reimbursement are official fees related to filing and search at the national and European level. On top of this, reimbursement of official fees regarding examination, publication and grant at the national level can also be requested. Further, if you are using a European patent attorney to draft and file your European patent application, you can apply for voucher 3 to have some of the costs related to the draft and filing be reimbursed.. Finally, Prior art searches are also covered under the SME Fund 2024, but only when performed by a national IP office of an EU Member States or by the Visegrad Patent Institute.
Voucher 4: community plant variety
Community Plant Variety Protection costs can be partially reimbursed by requesting voucher 4. More specifically, the online application fees for a community plant variety right (EU level) as well as the examination fees can be reimbursed for 75%. The maximum amount reimbursed is EUR 1 500.
All vouchers only partially reimburse official fees. With the exception of voucher 3, fees incurred by attorneys or representatives are thus not covered under the SME Fund 2024. It should also be noted that the fund will not reimburse costs retroactively. All incurred costs before you are granted the relevant voucher will not be refunded.
It is also important to note that an SME can only be awarded each type of voucher once. The vouchers are independent and can be applied for at the same time or at different times. An awarded voucher is valid for 2 months (extendible by 2 months on request) and upon not using the voucher before the expiry date, you will not be able to request a refund nor apply for the same voucher again.
If you have requested a refund via your voucher, your voucher will be activated. IP scan vouchers (voucher 1) are activated directly by the EUIPO when the corresponding national IP office notifies that the service has been requested by the awarded company. For Trademark & Design vouchers (voucher 2), once activated, a 6-month implementation period applies, whereas for Patent vouchers (voucher 3) and Community plant variety vouchers (voucher 4) a 12-month implementation period applies, to request additional reimbursements to get the maximum use out of your vouchers.
SMEs have until December 6, 2024, to request their vouchers. Be aware that grant funds can run out and are awarded on a first come, first served basis until all available funds have been used.
Do you have any questions or want more information regarding the SME Fund 2024? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.