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.
Yes, in two ways:
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 745 has been paid.
For further details of the opposition procedure see the Guide for applicants, Part 1, point 178 ff.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
If you want to patent your invention in a specific country only, you should contact the national patent office of the country concerned.
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 447 ff.
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 (March 2012: 174 states) or any member of the World Trade Organization (June 2012: 155 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.
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.
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 1 365 (or EUR 1 280 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 5 350 (or EUR 5 265 if the application is filed online) to take a patent application with seven or more designated states 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.
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.
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 (Supplement to Official Journal 3/2009, "Arrangements for deposit accounts 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.
Fees may be validly paid to the EPO by any person.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An administrative fee of EUR 95 (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.
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 95 per application (fee code 022).
Further details can be found in the Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, Part E, Chapter XII, point 1.
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.
Information on the patentability of programs for computers is available on this website.
Patentability of computer programs
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.
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.
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.
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.