Thanks to an impressive track record spanning over
three decades, the EPO is today one of the world's leading offices when it
comes to international co‑operation in the field of patents. We have signed co‑operation
agreements with approximately seventy-five IP offices and regional IP
organisations worldwide (not including the EPO member states).
Our bilateral co-operation activities with non-member states focus on long‑term, strategic partnerships designed to make the global patent system more efficient and better suited to user needs.
Activities are aimed at ensuring high patent quality and legal certainty as well as the effectiveness and accessibility of patent systems for both local and foreign applicants. Our international co-operation policy comprises three main pillars:
The EPO has offered technical co-operation to IP offices all over the world since its early days. Its building blocks have been patent data exchange and the use of common tools for classification, search and substantive examination, such as the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) and EPOQUE Net. The aim has been to improve patent quality and facilitate access to the world's prior art.
Our Reinforced Partnership programme builds on our technical co-operation and seeks to establish ambitious long-term partnerships with the world's emerging innovation hubs. It supports the partner offices in both developing the national patent system and providing improved services to applicants. The programme is also aimed at increasing efficiency and quality in the patent grant processes of the partner offices by avoiding duplication of work through the systematic reuse of EPO search and examination results.
The validation system provides applicants for a European patent with a simple and cost-effective procedure for obtaining patent protection in a validation state. If an applicant submits a request for validation and pays the validation fee, European patent applications (direct and Euro-PCT filings) and patents can be validated in these states, where they will in principle have the same effect as national applications and patents, will be subject to national law and will enjoy essentially the same protection as patents that the EPO grants for EPC contracting states. While the validation system is based on the relevant national law, and hence subject to the national validation rules of the state concerned, the patent office in the validation state will not conduct any further formal or substantive examination but accept and reuse the examination results of the EPO.