Munich diplomatic conference
The newly signed EPC reshapes the patent system in Europe

1973: European Patent Convention signed in Munich

On 5 October 1973, 16 countries sign the European Patent Convention (EPC). This multilateral treaty creates the European Patent Organisation and the European Patent Office (EPO).

The EPC came into effect in 1977 and applicants could file a single patent application with the EPO that, if granted, is applicable in all the member states that they choose.

Download Travaux Préparatoires for EPC 1973


1973: Interim Committee created

To implement the EPC an Interim Committee was created in 1973. Headed by German Patent Office President Kurt Haertel, the Committee is entrusted with recruiting staff and organising the infrastructure necessary for establishing the European Patent Office (EPO).

1977: European Patent Office starts work

The EPO first opens the doors at its temporary headquarters in the rented Motorama building in Munich on 2 November. The EPO initially recruits 98 essential staff.

The EPO begins operating with less than 100 staff
The EPO begins operating with less than 100 staff


Bob van Benthem, EPO President, 1977 - 1985

1977: Bob van Benthem becomes first EPO President

Johannes Bob van Benthem is elected as first President of the EPO and remains in office until 1985. Formerly a lawyer for the Netherlands Patent Office and later its President from 1968 to 1977, van Benthem is one of the key figures who helps pave the way for the European Patent Organisation and the EPO. Many of the texts fundamental to the EPO, including the EPC, bear his hallmark.

1978: IIB integrated into EPO

The International Patent Institute (IIB) in The Hague and its 714 employees are merged with the EPO in 1978. The IIB had been established in 1947 to manage patent searches for Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, with five more countries joining later: Türkiye (1955), Monaco (1956), Switzerland (1960), the United Kingdom (1965) and Italy (1974). As part of the EPO, the IIB is responsible for examination on filing, documentation and prior-art patent searches.

1978: SACEPO created

The Standing Advisory Committee before the EPO (SACEPO) is set up to give representatives from industry and the patent profession a voice in the development of the EPO.

Decade in review

  • 1978: Italy and Sweden join European Patent Organisation
  • 1978: Berlin sub-office opens
  • 1978: EPO now employs over 1 000 people