European patent Filing
Obtain patent protection in 38 countries with a single application.
WHAT IS A EUROPEAN PATENT?
A patent is a legal title granting its holder the right – in a particular country and for a certain period of time – to prevent third parties from exploiting an invention for commercial purposes without authorisation. The European Patent Convention has established a single European procedure for the grant of patents on the basis of a single application and created a uniform body of substantive patent law designed to provide easier, cheaper and stronger protection for inventions in the contracting states. European patents are granted by the European Patent Office in a centralised and thus cost-effective and time-saving procedure conducted in either English, French or German, its three official languages.
The 38 contracting states are: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and United Kingdom.
It makes sense to file a European patent application rather than national applications when protection is sought in at least four European countries.
In each contracting state for which it is granted, a European patent gives its proprietor the same rights as would be conferred by a national patent granted in that state. If its subject-matter is a process, protection is extended to products directly obtained by that process. Any infringement of a European patent is dealt with by national law.
A published European patent application provides provisional protection which is no less than that conferred by a contracting state for a published national application and which must at least include the right to reasonable compensation in the event of wrongful infringement.
The standard term of a European patent is 20 years as from the date of filing. Provided that the annual renewal fees are duly paid, patents remain in force for the maximum term.
The official languages of the EPO are English, French and German. If the application is not filed in one of these languages, a translation has to be submitted.
EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION PROCESS
Filing of application
European patent applications consist of the following parts: a request for grant; a description of the invention; one or more claims; any drawings referred to in the description or the claims; and an abstract. After filing, the subject-matter of a European patent application cannot be extended beyond the content of the application as filed.
Filing and formalities examination
This involves checking whether all the necessary information and documentation has been provided. If no claims are filed, they need to be filed within two months. This is followed by a "formalities" examination relating to certain formal aspects of the application, including the form and content of the patent application, the translation, etc.
In parallel with the formalities examination, a European search report is drawn up, listing all the documents available to the Office that are considered relevant for assessing novelty and inventive step. The search report is sent to the applicant, together with a copy of any cited documents and an initial opinion on whether the application meet the requirements.
The application is published – normally together with the search report – 18 months after the date of filing or the priority date. Applicants then have six months from the date of mention of publication of the search report to respond to the extended European search report and to decide whether or not to pursue their application by requesting substantive examination.
After the request for examination has been made, the EPO examines, whether the application and the invention to which it relates meet the requirements, and in particular whether the invention is patentable.
Grant and validation
The granted European patent is a "bundle" of individual national patents. In many contracting states, for the patent to retain its protective effect and be enforceable against infringers, it must be validated. Read more about validation.
After the European patent has been granted, it may be opposed by third parties – who will usually be the applicant’s competitors – if they believe that it should not have been granted (for example, because the invention lacks novelty or does not involve an inventive step). Notice of opposition must be filed within nine months of the grant being mentioned in the European Patent Bulletin.
Decisions of the European Patent Office concerning issues such as the refusal of an application or opposition matters are open to appeal.
FILING WITH PINTZ & PARTNERS' HELP
For applicants residing outside Europe, it is mandatory to choose a professional representative. We would be glad to assist you with your European patent filing. The European Patent Office accepts applications under the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). If you are seeking protection in only a few countries, it may be best to apply direct for a national patent to each of the national offices. If you wish to obtain a protection in at least 4 European countries, we suggest to apply for a European Patent.
There are 3 ways to file a European patent:
- As first filing, before publishing the invention.
- No later than 12 months after filing another national patent application, in this case we will claim priority.
- As national phase of the PCT application, no later than 31 months after filing a PCT application. (This is called Euro-PCT.)
For filing a European patent application the followings are requested:
- description, claims, abstract and drawings (in English)
- certified priority copy with translation, if any.