European patent

European patents are granted following a single filing and examination procedure and are likely to cover 42 countries and a market of 600 million people.

Under the European Patent Convention (EPC), the European Patent Office (EPO - http://www.epo.org) manages a centralized patent granting system on behalf of all Contracting States (European Union countries and other European countries - see below) and represents a model of inter-European cooperation. Each year the EPO receives more than 170,000 patent applications.

Territorial coverage. The European Patent Organization now comprises 38 countries :
  • the 28 countries of the European Union, i.e.: Germany (DE), Austria (AT), Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), Cyprus (CY), Croatia (HR), Denmark (DK), Spain (ES), Estonia (EE), Finland (FI) ), Greece (GR), Hungary (HU), Ireland (IE), Italy (IT), Latvia (LV), Lithuania (LT), Netherlands (NL), Poland (PL), Portugal (PT), Czech Republic (CZ), Romania (RO), United Kingdom (UK), Slovakia (SK), Slovenia (SI), Sweden (SE);
  • as well as the following countries: the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MK), Norway (NO), Switzerland and Liechtenstein (CH / LI), Turkey (TR), Monaco (MC), Iceland (IS), Albania (AL), Serbia (RS), San Marino (SM).
The following two countries which permit the extension of the effects of a European patent to their territory subject to mere formalities must be added to this list:
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina (BA), Montenegro (ME).
In addition, European patent applications and European patents can be validated in the following countries:
  • Morocco (MA), for European patent applications filed on or after March 1, 2015,
  • Republic of Moldova (MD), for European patent applications filed on or after November 1, 2015,
  • Tunisia (TN), for European patent applications filed on or after December 1, 2017.
European patent applications and European patents validated in these countries benefit essentially the same protection as patents granted by the EPO for the 38 States currently members of the European Patent Organization. Validation takes place at the request of the applicant. The request for validation for these countries shall be deemed to be filed for any European patent application or international application filed from March 1, 2015 for Morocco and from November 1, 2015 for the Republic of Moldova. This possibility of validation does not exist for applications filed before that date and for European patents issued on the basis of those applications. The validation fee must be paid to the EPO within a period of six months from the date on which the European Patent Bulletin referred to the publication of the European search report or, as the case may be, The time limit for completing the formalities required for the entry of an international application into the European phase.

A European patent is therefore likely to cover 42 countries with a population of 600 million people.

Granting procedure. According to the European Patent Office Examination Guidelines, the procedure to be followed during examination of a European patent application includes a number of steps which may be summarized as follows:
  • the application designating one or more Contracting States is filed with a competent national service (national patent office) or with the European Patent Office;
  • the Filing Section of the European Patent Office examines the application in order to establish whether a filing date may be granted and to check whether the required fees have been paid;
  • the Filing Section of the European Patent Office shall examine the application as to form;
  • at the same time, the research division of the European Patent Office draws up the search report and transmits it to us;
  • the European Patent Office publishes the application together with the search report or separately;
  • upon presentation of a request accompanied by payment of the corresponding fee, the Examining Division of the European Patent Office examines the application as to the substance and, if necessary, as to form;
  • provided that the requirements of the European Patent Convention are met, a European patent is issued for the designated States;
  • the European Patent Office publishes the European patent specification;
  • any person may object to the granted European patent; After examination of the opposition, the Opposition Division of the European Patent Office decides either to reject the opposition, or to maintain the patent in an amended form or to revoke it;
  • if the European patent is amended, the European Patent Office publishes a new specification of the European patent as amended;
  • an appeal may be filed against any decision of the European Patent Office before a Board of Appeal of the Office.
Validation in the contracting states and translations. In each of the countries for which it is issued, the European patent shall have the same effects and shall be subject to the same treatment as a national patent issued in that country.

However, in order to produce its effects in a country, the European patent still has to be "validated" after it has been issued (on average 5 years from the filing) by completion of certain formalities which vary from country to country, And which essentially concern the filing of translations into the national language
  • Of the European patent specification in its entirety, or
  • Of the claims alone, an English translation of the description being required in some countries.
If the European patent is not validated in a country, it will cease to produce its effects in this country.

With a view to simplify these post-grant formalities, a system of "European patent with unitary effect" is being prepared.

Maintaining in force. The annual maintenance fees for the European patent must be paid annually to the European Patent Office until the grant of the patent and then in each country.