The maximum term of a European patent is 20 years from its filing date. The patent may lapse earlier if the annual renewal fees are not paid or if the patent is revoked by the patentee or after opposition proceedings. In certain cases (medical or plant protection product patents) it is possible to extend the period of protection.
Yes, in two ways:
In proceedings before the European Patent Office, following publication of a European patent application, any person may submit observations concerning the patentability of the invention to which that application or the granted patent relates. These observations must be filed in writing in English, French or German and must include a statement of the grounds on which they are based. There are no fees for presenting such observations. We advise using the official EPO web-based filing form, which has been designed to help you to formulate your observations in a structured and concise manner. It is available free of charge from the EPO website. Filing observations does not make you a party to any official proceedings the EPO undertakes, and you will not be informed by the EPO about the further outcome of the patent grant proceedings. However, it is important to note that submissions filed as third-party observations will be placed in the public part of the file of the patent application or patent and will thus be accessible to the public. The observations are communicated to the patent applicant/proprietor, who may comment on them.
For further details see:
Requests for the grant of a European patent must be filed on the form prescribed by the European Patent Office (EPO Form 1001). This should be accompanied (where applicable - i.e. where the applicant is not the inventor or is not the sole inventor) by a "Designation of the inventor" form (EPO Form 1002). An "Authorisation" (EPO Form 1003) may also be required (see "Representation" below).
European patent applications must contain:
If you do not have either a residence or a place of business within the territory of an EPC contracting state ("non-resident applicants") you must be represented by a professional representative and act through them in all proceedings, other than in filing the European patent application. You can find a professional representative in the database of professional representatives.
Cost of a European patent application
The following fees are payable upon filing a European patent application.
For divisional applications filed in respect of any earlier application which is itself a divisional application (Rule 38(4) EPC):
The above fees are due within one month of filing the European patent application.
Further fees are due if you decide that you wish to pursue the application after receiving the European search report.
Where to file
Our filing offices are located in Munich, Berlin and The Hague. You may also file by fax or online, using one of the EPO online filing tools.
The EPO's postal addresses and fax numbers can be found on the Contact page.
For further information on how to file a European patent application and on the European patent grant procedure, see The European Patent Guide - How to get a European patent, as well as Notes on EPO Form 1001 and the current Schedule of fees and expenses.
The European patent grant procedure takes about three to five years from the date your application is filed. It is made up of two main stages. The first comprises a formalities examination, the preparation of the search report and the preliminary opinion on whether the claimed invention and the application meet the requirements of the EPC. The second involves substantive examination.
When seeking patent protection in one or more EPO member states, you can choose either to follow the national procedure in each state or to take the European route, which confers protection in all the contracting states in a single procedure.
If you want to patent your invention in one particular country only, it is advisable to file your application at the national patent office of the country concerned.
If you decide that you want a European patent, you have the choice between the direct European route and the Euro-PCT route. With the direct European route, the entire procedure is governed by the EPC alone. With the Euro-PCT route, the first phase of the grant procedure (the international phase) is subject to the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty), while the regional phase before the EPO as designated or elected Office is governed primarily by the EPC.
For further details see the European Patent Guide and the Euro-PCT Guide.
In order to initiate the European phase you must fulfil a number of requirements within 31 months of the filing date or, if priority has been claimed, the earliest priority date. More details can be found in the Euro-PCT Guide, point 5.2 ff.
Yes. If you or your predecessor in title have filed an application for either a patent or the registration of a utility model or a utility certificate in or for any state party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property or any member of the World Trade Organization, you may claim priority when filing a European patent application in respect of the same invention. You must do so within 12 months of the date of filing of the first application.
If the previous application was filed in an EPC contracting state, you can also designate that state in the European application. The previous application whose priority you claim may also be a European or international (PCT) application.
For further details see the European Patent Guide, point 4.1.017 ff.
If you have either a residence or a place of business within the territory of an EPC contracting state you are not obliged to be represented by a professional representative (European patent attorney). If you do not have either a residence or a place of business within the territory of an EPC contracting ("non-resident"), you may file a European patent application but must appoint a professional representative and act through them afterwards. Fees may be paid by anybody.
Patent grant procedures are highly complex, so if you are not experienced in patent matters, we strongly recommend consulting a professional representative.
Representation may also be undertaken by any legal practitioner qualified in one of the EPC contracting states and having their place of business within that state, to the extent that they are entitled in that state to act as a professional representative in patent matters.
Further details can be found in the European Patent Guide, point 4.1.023 ff.