1. Legal basis
Under Article 65(1) of the European Patent Convention, any contracting state may, if the European patent as granted, amended or limited by the European Patent Office is not drawn up in one of its official languages, prescribe that the proprietor of the patent supply to its central industrial property office a translation of the patent as granted, amended or limited in one of that state's official languages at his option or, where that state has prescribed the use of one specific official language, in that language.
Under Article 1(1) of the London Agreement*, a contracting state to the Agreement which has an official language in common with one of the official languages of the EPO will dispense with the translation requirements under Article 65(1) EPC.
Under Article 1(2) of the London Agreement, a contracting state to the Agreement which does not have an official language in common with one of the official languages of the EPO will dispense with the translation requirements under Article 65(1) EPC if the European patent
- has been granted in the EPO official language prescribed by that state, or
- is translated into that language and filed under Article 65(1) EPC.
Under Article 1(3) of the London Agreement, such a contracting state can, however, require that a translation of the claims into one of its official languages be filed under Article 65(1) EPC.
2. Translation requirements in the contracting states
Of the 38 contracting states to the European Patent Convention (status: 1 February 2012), 19, namely Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey, have enacted provisions under Article 65 (1) and (2) EPC. These states all require a translation of the complete patent specification.
Eighteen contracting states have ratified the London Agreement (Croatia, Denmark, Finland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). These states dispense entirely or partly with the translation requirements under Article 65(1) EPC.
Contracting states to the London Agreement which have an official language in common with the EPO, i.e. France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, dispense entirely with the translation requirements.
The following states do not have an official language in common with the EPO and require a translation of the claims to be filed in one of their official languages if the European patent has been granted in English, or has been translated into English and filed under Article 65(1) EPC: Croatia**, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands and Sweden. Except for Croatia, the European patent specification can also be filed in these countries in the respective country's language. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia only require a translation of the claims into their respective official languages, regardless of the official language in which the EPO has granted the patent.
All EPC contracting states have prescribed, in accordance with Article 65(3) EPC, that in the event of failure to observe the relevant national provisions, the European patent will be deemed to be void ab initio. The circumstances in which such a loss of rights occurs are determined by the national law of the contracting states concerned. In most contracting states the time limit for filing the translation is non-extendable.
3. Effect of the European patent as a national patent
Under Article 64(1) EPC, a European patent automatically confers on its proprietor from the date on which the mention of the grant is published in the European Patent Bulletin, in each contracting state in respect of which it is granted, the same rights as would be conferred by a national patent granted in that state.
Accordingly, the proprietor needs to take no action before the central industrial property office in respect of European patents granted for France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland/Liechtenstein or the United Kingdom. Subject to Article 68 EPC, a European patent takes effect as a national patent on the date on which the mention of the grant is published in the European Patent Bulletin.
See Table VI regarding payment of national renewal fees to the central industrial property offices.
4. Different sets of claims
If, in the event of prior national rights, the European patent application contains different sets of claims for different states (Rule 138 EPC), only a translation of the set of claims applicable to the state in question need be filed.
5. Explanatory notes concerning the table
The following table contains information regarding each of the aforementioned states, which should be of assistance to applicants in filing translations with the central industrial property office.
* Agreement on the application of Article 65 of the European Patent Convention (see OJ EPO 2001, 549 and 2008, 123)
** Under the applicable Croatian Amending Act (in force since 17 March 2009), Croatia also dispenses with the submission of a translation of the patent specification into Croatian in respect of European patents extended to Croatia and granted since 1 May 2008.