Over 20 states met at a diplomatic conference in Munich in 1973 to discuss the introduction of a European patent grant procedure. The conference concluded with the signing of the EPC by 16 participants. Four years later, on 7 October 1977, the Convention came into force.
With the legal framework in place, the EPO in Munich began its work as a granting authority. On 1 June 1978 the first applicants filed for European patent protection. That same year, the Office expanded to include a site in Berlin and the former International Patent Institute in The Hague.
The filing figures reflect the EPO's rapid development: the 100 000 th application was filed in 1983 and eight years later the total was 500 000. 1997 saw filing figures reach the million mark.
The Vienna site was established at the start of the nineties, incorporating the former International Patent Documentation Center already located in the Austrian capital. A small EPO liaison office was also opened in Brussels to build up relations with the European Commission.
In addition to all 27 EU member states, Albania, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey belong to the European Patent Organisation.