How to apply for a patent

From reading the other pages in this section you should know if your invention is patentable, if it is right for your business and if you are ready to file a patent application. You should also be aware of similar inventions that already exist. If you are convinced your invention is new and you want to get a European patent then start here.


Flowchart of the patent process

Your application

1. Draft your application

Your patent application is an instruction manual to other inventors, engineers and scientists – a recipe to enable others to replicate what you have done. For this reason, you must describe it in sufficient detail when filing, distinguishing it from previous inventions.  

Your European patent application should consist of:
•    a request for grant – Form 1001 
•    a description of the invention
•    claims (i.e. the scope of the legal protection / exclusivity you want)
•    drawings (if any)
•    an abstract (a summary ).

Check a patent application example.

Your application can be filed at the EPO in any language. The official languages of the EPO are English, French and German. If you file in another language you should supply a translation. 

After filing you have one month to pay the initial fees (e.g. filing, search, page and claims fees). See our section below ‘How much will it cost?’
The EPO will not send you any invoices.

Check the European Patent Guide for more information on drafting your application.

2. Filing your European patent application

You can file your application using EPO Online Filing softwareOnline Filing 2.0 or the EPO Web-Form Filing service, which are free of charge. Your application can also be filed on paper and submitted by post or even in person
To get a filing date you need at least:

  • an indication that a European patent is sought (i.e. Form 1001)
  • particulars identifying the applicant
  • a description of the invention or a reference to a previously filed application.

You can file your European patent application on paper or online with your national authority which checks it for their own requirements before forwarding it to the EPO. You will receive a copy of the receipt from the EPO, indicating the date and the application number.

3. Study the search report

Upon submission of the required documentation, an examiner will prepare a search report within a few months and send it with a copy of any cited documents and an initial opinion as to whether your application meets our patentability requirements

4. Decide whether to proceed

After receiving your search report, you can choose to withdraw your application if it's unlikely to succeed, thus preventing publication. If not withdrawn, your application will be published. You will then have six months to decide whether to pursue your application by requesting substantive examination and paying the examination fee.  


5. Publication

Your European patent application will be published, 18 months after the filing date or if priority is claimed, from the oldest priority date. Early publication can be requested. The publication includes the description, claims, drawings, and abstract. If the search report is available, it will be attached. In case the original application was filed in a language other than English, French, or German, it will also be made available in the online dossier in the European Patent Register.

Publishing your invention makes it available to everyone (potential investors, customers and licensees). The publication announces that you have a "patent pending". If you enforce your granted patent against infringers in the future, you may seek damages from the publication date.

You must pay the designation fee (within six months of the date on which the European Patent Bulletin mentions the publication of the European search report)  and, if you wish, the extension and/or validation fees.

Designation fee 

When you file your application all of the EPO’s member states at the filing date of the application are deemed to be designated in your request for grant. 

Extension / validation fee(s)

You can extend your patent protection to more countries through EPO extension or validation agreements with non-member states, by paying the required fees. Publication provides provisional protection in the designated states. 

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6. Examination

After your request for examination the EPO assesses your patent application for compliance and decides if a patent can be granted. Three technically qualified patent examiners will take the decision to grant or refuse your application. By considering the documents listed in the search report and any evidence submitted by the public, they may raise objections. Your exchanges with the EPO, i.e. the letters sent by the examiners and your replies and possible amendments, will be visible in the European Patent Register. Depending on the number and complexity of the objections, the examination rounds could take 1-3 years – but the quicker you reply to the examiner’s letters the sooner matters could be resolved. You can request accelerated processing at no extra cost. In some cases you might be invited to oral proceedings so that the issues with your application can be discussed directly and hopefully resolved. This hearing would be just between you and/or your attorney and the EPO examiner(s) – it is not public.


If the objections cannot be overcome, the EPO will refuse your application. In such circumstances you could request oral proceedings to present your arguments. Refusals can be appealed (see below).

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7. Grant

Once the patent examiners decide to grant you a patent, they'll issue a decision to grant. After paying the necessary fees (grant and publication) and filing translations of the claims, the mention of your patent's grant will be published in the European Patent Bulletin.

The publication of your granted patent defines the precise scope of your exclusive rights for your invention and takes effect in all the countries and territories where you validate your patent (see below). Only now could you enforce your patent in those countries against alleged infringers.


8. Post-grant validation

After the grant you should validate your patent in each of the states you designated earlier within a specific time limit (usually 3 months) to retain its protective effect and to be enforceable against infringers in those states. You can take up protection in just a few, or many of the EPO’s 39 member states, incurring costs for e.g. local translations and attorneys. You can substantially reduce costs by choosing to take up unitary effect for your European patent – covering 17 EU states as a single territory. You might still additionally want to take up national validations in the remaining states.


9. What might happen after grant?


After your patent has been granted, it can still be opposed by someone with arguments and evidence to challenge its validity within 9 months. Opposition hearings are typically conducted via public oral proceedings (videoconference by default).

About 3-4% of granted patents are opposed, with the following outcomes: 

Pie chart for opposition outcomes

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During the procedure, or after the grant, there could be the possibility of an appeal. Appeals may be filed against decisions of the Receiving Section, the examining divisions, the opposition divisions and the Legal Division. For example, you might want to appeal against a decision to refuse your application, or after grant you might want to appeal the outcome of an opposition (e.g. because it led to your patent being revoked).

Appeals are heard before the independent Boards of Appeal. An appeal has suspensive effect, which means that the contested decision is not yet final and its effects are suspended. 

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Limitation and revocation 

As the patent proprietor you may request to limit or revoke your own patent. You can file the request at any time after grant, after opposition proceedings or even after expiry of the patent. If a request for revocation or limitation is filed while opposition proceedings for the European patent are pending, the opposition proceedings take precedence.  



Timing, costs and representation

How long will it take?

European patent grant procedure takes about 2-4 years. You should receive a search report within 6 months of your request, in order to help you decide whether to proceed. Economic factors are discussed in our European Patent Guide. A PACE request can accelerate the handling of your application at no extra cost.


How much will it cost?

At the start of the procedure, filing and search fees of around EUR 1,750 are due, which may vary based on the number of claims exceeding 15. Other fees, such as examination and grant fees, can be paid later, allowing you to delay costs while seeking investment or generating income from your invention. You can also decide whether or not to proceed with each stage of the process. Currently, the cost of EPO fees to obtain a European patent amount to about EUR 6,475. The EPO does not send invoices, so it is your responsibility to keep track of what fees are due when.

Once your application is granted, additional costs (e.g. translations, local attorneys and national fees) will vary depending on where and how you validate your patent in any of the EPO’s 39 member states

The new Unitary Patent simplifies the process and reduces costs by providing protection in 17 EU countries as a single territory. Instead of paying separate national patent offices, a single annual renewal fee is paid to the EPO. 

For national validations, you must designate which states you want your patent to be valid in, and some countries may require a translation of the patent specification or claims. It's important to have a strategy based on potential markets, licensees, or litigation needs, as translation costs can be significant.

Hiring a patent attorney can result in additional expenses that may reach thousands of euros depending on examination procedures and application complexity.

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Fees – payment methods and refunds

You can pay your patent fees to the EPO by: 

  • deposit account held with the EPO
  • credit card: American Express, Mastercard and Visa
  • bank transfer 

To pay patent fees by credit card or to use a bank transfer, check Central Fee Payment service.

In case you withdraw your application, you can be refunded depending on the examination stage.

More information on refunds, check schedule of fees – see e.g. Article 9 viz search fees and Article 11 viz examination fees. 


Fee reductions and compensation for SME's and others

The filing fee is reduced when you file online.

Rule 6 of the EPC provides a 30% reduction of the filing and examination fees for those European applicants for whom English, French or German is not an official language of their home country, but only if they are:

  • small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • natural persons;
  • or non-profit organisations, universities or public research organisations 

Our European Patent Guide details language arrangements to assist applicants from certain contracting states.

Furthermore, SMEs in the EPO’s 39 member states who filed their patent application in a language other than English, French, or German, may receive compensation for translation costs if they request unitary effect after grant.

The SME Fund provides grants to eligible SMEs to reimburse 75% of EPO filing and search fees. These grants are administered by the EUIPO and the scheme will run until 8 December 2023.



If you are inexperienced in patent matters, we advise you to consult a professional representative before the EPO, to have the best chance to be granted a patent that meets your business needs.

Natural or legal persons having either their residence or their principal place of business in a contracting state to the EPC can undertake all procedural steps before the EPO themselves. Other applicants are required to be represented by a patent attorney (aside from filing the application and paying fees). EPO maintains a database of professional representatives.

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