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

 
 
Claiming priority
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If you or your predecessor in title have duly filed an application for a patent, a utility model or a utility certificate in or for any state party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property or any member of the World Trade Organization you may claim priority when filing a European patent application in respect of the same invention. You must file the European patent application no later than twelve months after filing the first application (see points 226-228).
If the earlier application was filed in or for an EPC contracting state, you may also designate that state in the European application. The earlier application whose priority you claim may also be a European or an international (PCT) application (see point 19).
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You may claim multiple priorities in respect of one European patent application, even if they originate from different countries. You may also claim multiple priorities for any one claim. If you claim multiple priorities, time limits which run from the date of priority are computed from the earliest priority date. 
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To claim the priority of an earlier application you must indicate the date, country and file number of the earlier application. 
OJ 2012, 492
You must also file the priority document, i.e. a copy of the earlier application certified by the authority with which it was filed, together with authentication of its filing date from that authority. Currently the EPO adds a copy of the earlier application whose priority you claim to the file of the European patent application free of charge if the earlier application is either a European patent application, an international patent application filed with the EPO as receiving Office, a Japanese, Chinese or Korean patent or utility model application or a United States provisional or non-provisional patent application. 
If you are filing a European patent application claiming priority from an earlier application, you have to file a copy of any search results in respect of the earlier application. Where the search results are not available when filing the European patent application, they have to be filed without delay after they have been made available to you. The obligation to file the search results exists as long as the application is pending. Where the EPO notes, at the time when the Examining Division assumes responsibility, that the seach results have still not been filed, it invites you to file them within a non-extendable time limit of two months. If you fail to file the search results or a declaration that they are not available to you, the European patent application will be deemed to be withdrawn. 
OJ 2010, 410,
OJ 2012, 540
You are exempted from the obligation to file a copy of the search results if the EPO drew up the search report or your priority application was filed in Austria, Japan, the UK or the US. In future, further countries are expected to be included in this list. 
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You should preferably submit the declaration indicating the date, country and file number of the earlier application when you file your European patent application.
You must supply the complete declaration of priority and the priority document no later than sixteen months after the earliest priority date.
If you do not indicate the file number or file the copy of the earlier application within the above time limit, you will be invited to remedy the deficiency; if you fail to do so, you will lose your right to priority (but see point 141).
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Among the effects of a valid claim to priority is that the date of priority determines the prior art that can be cited against the European patent application.  
As a rule, the EPO examines only the formal conditions for claiming priority. The examining division (see points 159 et seq.) normally checks whether a right to priority exists if it finds prior art (see point 32) from between the priority date and the date of filing of the European patent application or if it finds a prior right under Article 54(3) (see point 34). The claimed subject-matter for which priority is claimed must be derivable directly and unambiguously from the full disclosure of the invention in the priority document.
Where the priority document is not in English, French or German, you may be invited to file a translation of the previous application into one of the EPO’s official languages. If you receive such an invitation, which may happen throughout the grant or opposition proceedings, you must file the translation within the period set by the EPO. Alternatively, a declaration that the European patent application is a complete translation of the previous application may be submitted in certain cases. If you fail to supply the translation of the priority document in due time, the right to the priority with respect to the priority claim in question will be lost. 
OJ 2013, 150