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Applying for a patent

Questions

The procedure

Fees and costs

Your application

Patentability of computer programs

Practical advice

Answers

The procedure


How long does a granted patent stay valid?

The maximum term of a European patent is 20 years from its filing date. The patent may lapse earlier if the annual renewal fees are not paid or if the patent is revoked by the patentee or after opposition proceedings. In certain cases (medical or plant protection product patents) it is possible to extend the period of protection.

Article 63 EPC: Term of the European patent


Is it possible to object to a particular application, either before or after it has been granted?

Yes, in two ways:

  1. In proceedings before the European Patent Office, following publication of a European patent application, any person may submit observations concerning the patentability of the invention to which that application or the granted patent relates. These observations must be filed in writing in English, French or German and must include a statement of the grounds on which they are based. There are no fees for presenting such observations. We advise using the official EPO web-based filing form, which has been designed to help you to formulate your observations in a structured and concise manner; it is available free of charge from the EPO website (tpo.epo.org). Filing observations does not make you a party to any official proceedings the EPO undertakes, and you will not be informed by the EPO about the further outcome of the patent grant proceedings. However, it is important to note that submissions filed as third-party observations will be placed in the public part of the file of the patent application or patent and will thus be accessible to the public. The observations are communicated to the patent applicant/proprietor, who may comment on them.

    For further details please see:

    • Notice from the European Patent Office dated 10 May 2011 concerning the filing of third party observations under Article 115 EPC by means of an online form
    • Third-party observations form
  2. Up to nine months after publication of the mention that a European patent has been granted, any person (with the exception of the patent proprietor himself) may file notice of opposition to the patent with the EPO. The notice of opposition must be filed in a written reasoned statement. That means that the opponent must state at least one ground for opposition under Article 100 EPC and indicate the facts, evidence and arguments presented in support of the ground(s). Otherwise the notice of opposition will be rejected as inadmissible.

    We advise using the official EPO opposition form (2300), which is available free of charge from the EPO and the central industrial property offices of the contracting states. Notice of opposition is not deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee of EUR 775 has been paid.

    For further details of the opposition procedure see the Guide for applicants, Part 1, point 178 ff.

    Oppositions
    Appeals
    Forms
    Article 100 EPC: Grounds for opposition
    Guide for applicants, Part 1


What do I have to do to apply for a European patent?

Requests for the grant of a European patent must be filed on the form prescribed by the European Patent Office (EPO Form 1001). This should be accompanied (where applicable - i.e. where the applicant is not the inventor or is not the sole inventor) by a "Designation of the inventor" form (EPO Form 1002). An "Authorisation" (EPO Form 1003) may also be required (see "Representation" below).

European patent applications must contain:

  • a request for the grant of a European patent (EPO Form 1001)
  • a description of the invention
  • one or more claims
  • any drawings referred to in the description or the claims
  • an abstract.

 

Representation

If you do not have either a residence or a place of business within the territory of an EPC contracting state (non-resident applicants) you must be represented by a professional representative and act through him in all proceedings, other than in filing the European patent application. You can find a professional representative in the database of professional representatives.

Cost of a European patent application

The following fees are payable upon filing a European patent application.

  • Filing fee: EUR 210 (for paper filings - fee code 001) or EUR 120 (for online filings); Additional fee for the 36th and each subsequent page if applicable EUR 15
  • Search fee: EUR 1 285 (fee code 002)
  • Where appropriate, claims fees: EUR 235 (fee code 015) per claim for the 16th to 50th claim and EUR 580 for the 51st and each subsequent claim up to a limit of 50.

In the case of a divisional application filed in respect of any earlier application which is itself a divisional application (Rule 38, paragraph 4)

  • fee for a divisional application of second generation EUR 210 (fee code 552)
  • fee for a divisional application of third generation EUR 420 (fee code 553)
  • fee for a divisional application of fourth generation EUR 630 (fee code 554)
  • fee for a divisional application of fifth or any subsequent generation EUR 840 (fee code 555)

The above fees are due within one month of filing the European patent application.

Further fees are due if you decide that you wish to pursue the application after receiving the European search report.

Where to file

Our filing offices are located in Munich, Berlin and The Hague. You may also file by fax or online.

The EPO's postal addresses and fax numbers can be found on the Contact page.

For further information on how to file a European patent application and on the European patent grant procedure, see How to get a European patent, Guide for applicants, Part 1, as well as the EPO forms required and the current Schedule of fees and expenses.

Forms
Database of professional representatives
Guide for applicants, Part 1
Online filing
Fees

The following fees are payable upon filing a European patent application.
a.        Filing fee: EUR 200 (for paper filings - fee code 001) or EUR 115 (for online filings); Additional fee for the 36th and each subsequent page if applicable EUR 14
b.        Search fee: EUR 1 165 (fee code 002)
c.        Where appropriate, claims fees: EUR 225 (fee code 015) per claim for the 16th to 50th claim and EUR 555 for the 51st and each subsequent claim up to a limit of 50.
The above fees are due within one month of filing the European patent application.
Further fees are due if you decide that you wish to pursue the application after receiving the European search report.

How long does the grant procedure take?

The European patent grant procedure takes about three to five years from the date your application is filed. It is made up of two main stages. The first comprises a formalities examination, the preparation of the search report and the preliminary opinion on whether the claimed invention and the application meet the requirements of the EPC. The second involves substantive examination.


Should I file a national, European or international application?

The European and national patent grant procedures exist in parallel. When seeking patent protection in one or more EPC contracting states, you can choose either to follow the national procedure in each state or to take the European route, which confers protection in all the contracting states that you designate in a single procedure.

If you want to patent your invention in one particular country, you will need to contact the national patent office of the country concerned.

If you decide that you want a European patent, you have the choice between the direct European route and the Euro-PCT route. With the direct European route, the entire procedure is governed by the EPC alone. With the Euro-PCT route, the first phase of the grant procedure (the international phase) is subject to the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty), while the regional phase before the EPO as designated or elected Office is governed primarily by the EPC.

For further details see the Guide for applicants, Part 1 and the Guide for applicants, Part 2 (Euro-PCT).

Patent offices of member states
Guide for applicants, Part 1
Guide for applicants, Part 2


What should I do if I want to protect my invention in one country only?

If you want to patent your invention in a specific country only, you should contact the national patent office of the country concerned.

Patent offices of member states
Patent offices outside the European Patent Organisation


I have filed an international (PCT) application and want to enter the regional European phase. What should I do?

In order to initiate the European phase you must fulfil certain minimum requirements within 31 months of the filing date or, if priority has been claimed, the earliest priority date. More details can be found in the Guide for applicants, Part 2 (Euro-PCT), point 449 ff.

Guide for applicants, Part 2


Can I use the priority of my national patent application when filing a European application?

Yes. If you or your predecessor in title have filed an application for either a patent or the registration of a utility model or a utility certificate in or for any state party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (175 states) or any member of the World Trade Organization (159 states), you may claim priority when filing a European patent application in respect of the same invention. You should do so no later than 12 months after filing the first application.

If the previous application was filed in or for an EPC contracting state, you may also designate that state in the European application. The previous application whose priority you claim may also be a European or international (PCT) application.

For further details see the Guide for applicants, Part 1, point 52 ff.

Guide for applicants, Part 1


Do I have to appoint a professional representative?

If you have either a residence or a place of business within the territory of an EPC contracting state you are not obliged to be represented by a professional representative (European patent attorney). If you are a non-resident applicant, you may file a European patent application on your own behalf but must appoint a professional representative and act through him afterwards. This does not apply to fee payments, since these may be made by anybody.

Patent grant procedures are highly complex. So if you lack the requisite experience, we advise you to consult a professional representative before the EPO.

Representation may also be undertaken by any legal practitioner qualified in one of the contracting states and having his place of business within that state, provided that he is entitled in that state to act as a professional representative in patent matters.

Further details can be found in the Guide for applicants, Part 1, point 58 ff.

Database of professional representatives
Guide for applicants, Part 1


Fees and costs


How much does a European patent cost?

Fees are charged for filing, search, designation of states, claims (if more than fifteen), examination, grant and printing. Renewal fees are also payable for the third year and each subsequent year after the date of filing.

The filing and search fees due at the beginning of the procedure currently amount to about EUR 1 495 (or EUR 1 405 if the application is filed online). The remaining fees are payable later. That means that applicants can decide at each stage of the procedure whether or not to continue with their application. As a rough guide, it currently costs on average EUR 5 655 (or EUR 5 565 if the application is filed online) to take a patent application through to the grant stage.

At the post-grant stage, competence is transferred to the contracting states designated in the European patent. In some contracting states, costs may be incurred for validation of the European patent there. In order to maintain the patent, renewal fees must be paid in each designated state. The amount of the renewal fee varies from state to state.

The overall cost of obtaining a European patent may also include fees for the services of a patent attorney. Further details of these costs can be obtained from any patent attorney authorised to act as a professional representative before the EPO. A searchable database of professional representatives is available on this website.

Fees
Online Filing
Database of professional representatives


Can I get financial help from the EPO for patenting my invention?

No, the EPO does not provide any assistance with licensing, funding, or finding venture-capital partners. Helpful websites can be found in our useful links collection.

Useful links
Inventors' handbook


Which methods of fee payment does the EPO accept?

Fees due to the EPO may be paid by payment or transfer to a bank account held by the EPO.

They may also be paid by debiting a deposit account opened with the EPO in Munich (Supplementary publication 4, OJ EPO 2014, "Arrangements for deposit accounts (ADA) and their annexes").

Holders of EPO deposit accounts may also use the EPO's Online Fee Payment service.

Credit card payments are not accepted.

All fees must be paid in euros; payments in other currencies will not be accepted.

Please note that the use of  EPO Form 1010 or PCT Form PCT/RO/101 or IPEA/401 for filing debit orders became mandatory on 1 April 2014.

Fees may be validly paid to the EPO by any person.

Fees, expenses and prices.
Arrangements for deposit accounts and their annexes
Bank accounts of the European Patent Organisation for payments in euro

 


Your application


When can I expect to get my search report?

If you have a query about your search report, please contact us by letter or fax quoting the application number. We cannot give this information out over the phone.

Contact


How long will it take for my European patent application to be published?

Your application will be published 18 months after the filing date or the earliest priority date. You may, however, request that it be published earlier.

For further details see the Guide for applicants, Part 1, point 149 ff.

Guide for applicants, Part 1


I would like to change my correspondence address. What do I have to do?

Requests to change the address of the applicant or inventor should be submitted in writing (letter or fax) to the EPO's official address, quoting the application number(s) concerned. Where appropriate, you can indicate that the change of address affects all applications filed in your company's name. There is no fee payable and no prescribed form is required.

Contact


Can I delete an inventor from, or add a further inventor to, a European patent application that has already been filed?

European patent applications have to designate the inventor. If the applicant is not the inventor or is not the sole inventor, the designation must contain a statement indicating the origin of the right to the European patent. Unless he waives this right in due time, the person designated as the inventor will be mentioned in the published European patent application, the European patent specification, the European Patent Register and the European Patent Bulletin.

Incorrect designations may be rectified provided that a request is received, accompanied by the consent of the wrongly designated person and the consent of the applicant for or proprietor of the patent where the request is not filed by that party. If an additional inventor is to be designated, the consent of the inventor(s) previously designated is not necessary. You can request rectification after the proceedings before the EPO are finished.

Where an incorrect designation has been rectified after publication, the rectification or cancellation will also be published in the European Patent Register or European Patent Bulletin. The national patent offices will be informed accordingly. However, a new patent certificate/specification will not be issued by the EPO since the inventor was not known at the date of grant.

Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, Part A, Chapter III, point 5, "Designation of inventor"
Contact


I would like to register a licence for a European patent application. What do I have to do?

There is no prescribed form for registering a licence. Requests must, however, be filed in writing, together with supporting evidence, e.g. a copy of an official document or an extract from it, or a declaration signed by both parties.

An administrative fee of EUR 100 (code 023) per application must be paid.

Note: the last date that a licence can be recorded with the EPO is the date of mention of the grant in the European Patent Bulletin. Any request must therefore be filed on or before this date.

Where a patent has been granted but no request filed in due time, licences must be recorded with the competent national office(s), in accordance with the relevant national regulations.

National law relating to the EPC
Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, Part E, Chapter XII, point 3


I would like to register a transfer of rights (change of ownership) for a European patent application. What do I have to do?

Registrations of transfers (assignments) of European patent applications are recorded in the European Patent Register at the request of an interested party and on production of documents satisfying the EPO that the transfer has taken place. This might be a copy of or extract from an official document, or a declaration signed by both parties.

There is no prescribed form for such requests. They must, however, be filed in writing with the EPO, quoting the application number(s) concerned.

You will have to pay an administrative fee of EUR 100 per application (fee code 022).

Further details can be found in the Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, Part E, Chapter XII, point 1.

Contact
Guidelines for Examination in the EPO


I would like to register a change in the name of the applicant. What do I have to do?

If the change affects the name only, and no transfer of rights has occurred, you can ask for it to be recorded by sending a letter or fax to the EPO quoting the relevant application number. No fee is payable.

Contact


Patentability of computer programs


Where can I find information on the patentability of programs for computers?

Information on the patentability of programs for computers is available on this page:

Patents for software? European law and practice


Practical advice


If I waive my right to receive the communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC, will my application automatically be processed more quickly than without the waiver?

Yes, waiving the right to the communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC and fulfilling the requirements of those rules upon entry into the European phase will speed up the formalities checks. These would otherwise be performed only upon expiry of the six-month time limit under Rules 161 and 162 EPC, and the file would only then be transferred to the search or examining division.


What is the relationship between the waiver of the communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC and a PACE request?

To accelerate the processing of your application you can request accelerated search or examination under the PACE programme. However, if you do so, but do not validly waive your right to receive the communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC, the application will not be subject to accelerated search or examination until after a communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC is issued and after expiry of the six-month time limit provided for under those rules.

It follows that the waiver option and PACE concern different stages of the proceedings and are not interrelated.


Does waiving my right to the communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC have an impact on payment, specifically if I am using the automatic debiting procedure?

Yes, if you are using the automatic debiting procedure and waive your right to the communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC, you must pay any claims fees due on entry into the European phase by another permitted means since, under the automatic debiting procedure, claims fees are considered to have been received on the last day of the six-month period under Rule 162(2) EPC.


How do I request early processing of a Euro-PCT application and when does my request take effect? Can I use the automatic debiting procedure to pay the fees?

You can ask the EPO as designated or elected Office to start processing a Euro-PCT application any time before expiry of the 31-month time limit calculated from the international date of filing or from the priority date, if priority is claimed, regardless of whether the international application has been published. To do this, you must file an express request for early processing (preferably referring to Article 23(2) or, where applicable, to Article 40(2) PCT). Please note that such a request is not provided for in EPO Form 1200. Furthermore, you must fulfil the requirements for entry into the European phase as if the 31-month time limit mentioned above had expired on the date of your request.

Please note that your request is effective once the EPO receives it, provided that all the necessary requirements are met. From then on the application will be processed in the same way as any Euro-PCT application that has entered the European phase, and you have the option of filing a divisional application.

The fees for early processing should not be paid by automatic debit order. This is because they would be debited, and thus paid, on the last day of the 31-month time limit under Rule 159(1) EPC, so the EPO could not start processing the application until that time limit had expired.

Guide for applicants, Part 2 (6th edition, October 2012), point 427ff.


I have read that the current time limits for filing divisional applications will be abolished. Which applications will the amended rule apply to?

The new version of Rule 36 EPC will apply to divisional applications filed on or after 1 April 2014. The Administrative Council's decision removing the current time limits for filing divisional applications does not provide for any transitional provisions. Thus when the amendment of Rule 36 EPC enters into force on 1 April 2014, a divisional application may be filed in respect of any earlier application still pending. This also applies to cases where the time limits applicable between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2014 have already expired.

We would also like to point out that there will be an additional fee as part of the filing fee for divisional applications of second and subsequent generations. Detailed information will be published on the EPO website.

Revision of the requirements for the filing of divisional applications (amendment of Rules 36, 38 and 135 EPC)

Decision of the Administrative Council of 16 October 2013 amending Rules 36, 38 and 135 of the Implementing Regulations to the European Patent Convention (CA/D 15/13)


I have just received an "Invitation to file a translation of the previous application (Rule 53(3) EPC)" from the examining division. It says that if the required translation(s) is (are) not filed within the given time limit, I will lose the right of priority I am claiming for my European patent application on the basis of the previous application(s

You will be sent EPO Form 2532G "Noting of loss of rights pursuant to Rule 112(1) EPC".

This loss of rights can be remedied during examination proceedings by filing either a request for further processing under Article 121 and Rule 135 EPC or a request for decision under Rule 112(2) EPC.

Please note that where translations of more than one priority document are requested and not provided in time, a further processing fee is due for each of the priorities concerned.


I have read that the EPO no longer accepts handwritten amendments. What are the consequences of filing handwritten amendments after 1 January 2014?

If documents replacing parts of the application or patent specification documents in opposition proceedings are submitted with handwritten amendments, they will be considered formally deficient, and the applicant will be given the opportunity to correct the formal deficiency within two months.

For more detailed information please refer to the new practice of the EPO’s first-instance departments on the application of Rules 49 and 50 EPC with respect to handwritten amendments – frequently asked questions.


I have been informed that fees have increased with effect of 1 April 2014. Where can I find the new schedule of fees, and which methods of payment are available?

The new fees are applicable as from 1 April 2014 and are binding on payments made on or after 1 April 2014. A link to the updated schedule of fees can be found at the bottom of this answer.

Fees must be paid in EUR direct to the EPO. You can do this by paying them into or transferring them to a bank account held by the EPO or by debiting a deposit account you have opened with the EPO via a debit order. If you are an EPO deposit account holder, you also have the option of issuing an automatic debit order. For debit orders submitted online, you can defer execution dates. The fees will then be debited from the deposit account at a later date of your choice.

Depending on how you pay, the deemed date of payment is the day on which (a) the amount of the payment or transfer is actually credited to a bank account held by the Office or (b) the order to debit a deposit account is received at the EPO, provided the deposit account contains sufficient funds.

Please note that the use of EPO Form 1010 or PCT Form PCT/RO/101 or IPEA/401 for filing debit orders became mandatory on 1 April 2014.

For more detailed information on this issue please refer to the following documents:

Schedule of fees
Euro accounts of the European Patent Organisation
Decision of the Administrative Council of 13 December 2013 amending Article 2 of the Rules relating to Fees and adjusting the amount of the reduction in the fee for the supplementary European search where the international or supplementary international search report was drawn up by one of the European International Searching Authorities (CA/D 14/13, OJ EPO 2014, A5)
Arrangements for deposit accounts (ADA) and their annexes, Supplementary publication 4, OJ EPO 2014


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