It is shown that open complementary split ring resonators (OCSRRs) are useful particles for the design of lowpass filters with very narrow transition bands in microstrip technology. Owing to the small electrical size of OCSRRs, the filters are also very small. These filters are implemented by cascading several OCSRR stages in a microstrip line. The OCSRR stages can be modelled as parallel resonators in series configuration, thus providing a transmission zero at their resonance frequency. By designing the OCSRRs with small inductance and high capacitance, very sharp cutoffs are achieved. To illustrate the possibilities of the approach, a prototype device example is provided. It consists on a five-stage periodic microstrip lowpass filter with 3dB insertion losses at 1.33GHz and 40dB rejection at 1.45GHz. To improve out-of-band rejection, four additional OCSRR stages tuned at the spurious frequency band have been cascaded. Filter dimensions are 39×7.4mm (i.e. 0.46λ× 0.087λ, where λ is the guided wavelength at the cutoff frequency). These filters are of interest in applications where small size and severe cutoff requirements are required. © The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2009.