Summary of the processing of applications and patents at the EPO
The processing of a European application and of a European patent is carried out in a number of distinct steps which may be summarised as follows:
the application is filed with the EPO or a competent national authority;
the Receiving Section examines the application to determine if a date of filing can be accorded to the application;
the Receiving Section carries out the formal examination of the application;
if the Receiving Section has established that the application complies with the formal requirements, the search division draws up an extended European search report (EESR), a copy of which is forwarded to the applicant;
the application and the search report are published by the EPO either together or separately;
on receipt of a request for examination from the applicant, or, if the request for examination has been filed before the search report has been transmitted to the applicant, on confirmation by the applicant that he desires to proceed further with the European patent application, the application is subjected to substantive examination and any necessary formal examination before a European patent is granted by the examining division;
provided the requirements of the EPC are met, a European patent is granted for the states designated;
the specification of the European patent is published by the EPO;
within nine months from publication, any person may give notice of opposition to the European patent granted; after examining the opposition, the opposition division decides whether to reject the opposition, maintain the patent in amended form or revoke the patent;
the patent proprietor may request limitation or revocation of the granted European patent; the examining division will decide on this request;
if the European patent is amended, the EPO publishes a new specification of the European patent amended accordingly.
A European patent application may also be filed via the PCT route ("Euro-PCT application – entry into the European phase"). For further details, see E‑IX, and subsections.
Any decision by the Receiving Section, an examining division, an opposition division or the Legal Division which adversely affects a party is appealable and, thus, subject to review before a board of appeal of the EPO. With the exception of important aspects relating to interlocutory revision, the appeals procedure is not dealt with in these Guidelines.