If you intend to apply for a patent in just a few European countries, it may be better to choose the national route and file your application at the IP offices in the countries for which you are seeking protection.
Patent law in the EPO member states has been extensively harmonised with the European Patent Convention (EPC) in terms of patentability requirements. However, the national route generally leads to national rights which confer protection of differing extent.
Further information is available on the websites of the IP offices in the member states.
Please note that IP offices operate either a registration system or an examination system:
- without search AL, LT, LV, MC, MK, MT, SI, SM
- with optional search CH/LI
- w ith search BE, IT, FR, NL, LU (searches done by the EPO); CY, GR, IE
- automatic AT, BG, DK, EE, ES, FI, IS, NO, PL, PT, SE
- on request CZ, DE, GB, HR, HU, RO, RS, SK, TR
The first patent application for a specific invention, once validly filed (i.e. accorded a filing date), creates what is known as a "priority right". For up to 12 months as from that first filing, the applicant can then file, in one or more countries, subsequent applications for the same invention claiming that priority right. The filing date of the first application is called the "priority date" and, for the purposes of determining the relevant prior art, is considered to be the filing date of the subsequent application(s).
For more information, please see "Guide for applicants I".