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Ken Targett

Hampshire, United Kingdom

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European patents/applications

The European Patent Convention (EPC) enables a single regional application to be filed covering the following countries in Europe:

Austria (AT)

Belgium (BE)

Bulgaria (BG)

Switzerland (CH) and Liechtenstein (LI)

Cyprus (CY)

Czech Republic (CZ)

Germany (DE)

Denmark (DK)

Estonia (EE)

Spain (ES)

Finland (FI)

France (FR)

United Kingdom (GB)

Greece (GR)

Hungary (HU)

Ireland (IE)

Italy (IT)

Luxembourg (LU)

Monaco (MC)

Netherlands (NL)

Portugal (PT)

Romania (RO)

Slovenia (SI)

Slovak Republic (SK)

Sweden (SE)

Turkey (TR)

A European application can also be extended to:

Albania (AL)

Latvia (LV)

Lithuania (LT)

Macedonia (MK)

The application is treated as a single application during the search, publication, examination and grant stages, and it is not until after grant that the patent is divided up into patents in each of the countries covered and that translations of the patent specification into each of the required languages need to be made.

The main differences between the European and British application procedures are: the European procedure is generally slower and the official fees are considerably greater; the search report is usually not issued until after the application has been published, and the search report is then published separately; the examination fee is payable within six months after the publication of the search report, together with designation fees on a per country basis; annual maintenance fees are payable starting two years after the application date; a grant fee is payable; and the European patent as a whole is open to opposition by third parties for a period of nine months after grant.

The main advantage of a European application compared with national applications around Europe is that it is less expensive if protection in more than a few countries is required. The main disadvantage is that the applicant puts all of their eggs in one basket.