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Guide for applicants, Part 1: How to get a European patent

 
 
II.
Nature and purpose of the European Patent Convention 
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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 EPC 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.
The 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. 
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 (but see point 9).
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 twenty years as from the date of filing. Provided that the annual renewal fees are duly paid, in most of the EPC contracting states patents remain in force for the maximum term. 
Article 63(2) sets out circumstances in which the term of a patent can be extended or a longer term granted. This option is intended primarily for medical or plant protection product patents, where the administrative approval procedure takes so long that the useful life of the patent is diminished.
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European patents may also be effective in some countries that have not acceded to the EPC (extension states). At present these are Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro (see point 26).