Legal foundations

The European Patent Organisation is an intergovernmental organisation that was set up on 7 October 1977 on the basis of the European Patent Convention (EPC) signed in Munich in 1973.

The preamble to the Convention defines the spirit of international co-operation under which the Organisation was set up:

"The Contracting States,

DESIRING to strengthen co-operation between the States of Europe in respect of the protection of inventions,

DESIRING that such protection may be obtained in those States by a single procedure for the grant of patents and by the establishment of certain standard rules governing patents so granted,

DESIRING, for this purpose, to conclude a Convention which establishes a European Patent Organisation and which constitutes a special agreement within the meaning of Article 19 of the Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, signed in Paris on 20 March 1883 and last revised on 14 July 1967, and a regional patent treaty within the meaning of Article 45, paragraph 1, of the Patent Cooperation Treaty of 19 June 1970,

HAVE AGREED on the following provisions: ... "

European Patent Convention: Preamble

The Organisation currently has 39 member states, comprising all the member states of the European Union together with Albania, North Macedonia (previously known as former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland and Türkiye. Its mission to grant European patents in accordance with the EPC is carried out by the European Patent Office. The Organisation has its seat in Munich (Art. 6 EPC).

The two organs of the Organisation are:
a) the European Patent Office, located in Munich with a branch in The Hague and sub-offices in Berlin and Vienna, and
b) the Administrative Council
(Art. 4(2) EPC).

The European Patent Organisation has legal personality; it is represented by the President of the European Patent Office (Art. 5 EPC).

The Administrative Council of the EPO, made up of representatives of the contracting states, exercises legislative powers on behalf of the Organisation, is responsible for policy issues relating to the Organisation and supervises the Office’s activities.

As a rule, the Council meets four times a year. Its languages are English, French and German.