One way of checking whether or not your product or idea has already been invented and patented by somebody else is to consult the EPO's free search service Espacenet. The database contains 90 million patent documents - most of them patent applications rather than granted patents - from around the world.
Legal status information (i.e. where and whether a patent is valid) for European and Euro-PCT applications is available via the EPO's free online European Patent Register, where you can also access the publicly available parts of the application file, including the grant stage (and including any opposition/appeal procedures).
Once they have been granted, European patents revert to the national patent offices of the designated states. You should therefore contact the relevant office for any post-grant legal status information you require.
Legal status information can also be accessed via the "INPADOC Legal Status" tab in Espacenet. This information is based on data the EPO receives from the national patent offices.
For more information you can also contact the EPO direct at email@example.com.
You can obtain copies of European patent applications, specifications of granted European patent and corrected documents from the European publication server.
Basic EPO production statistics such as filing rates by technical domain, residence of applicants and inventors, the most active patent filers, etc. can be found in our annual reports and Facts and figures brochures.
The EPO website contains a general breakdown of these statistics by EPC state, which is also published in our annual reports.
Statistical data from the EU perspective can be found on the Eurostat website.
Statistics from the EPO, United States Patent and Trademark Office and Japan Patent Office dating back to 1996 can be found in the annual Trilateral Statistical Reports, which are published on the Trilateral website. The reports also provide an overview of worldwide patenting activities, as well as details of and comparisons between each office's business processes.
If you want to create your own statistics based on EPO data, we recommend our subscription databases. These patent information products allow you to select data and export it to other applications (MS Excel, MS Access) for further analysis and reporting.
The EPO Worldwide Patent Statistical Database - also known as PATSTAT - is aimed at research institutes, universities and governmental organisations. Created by the EPO on behalf of the OECD Taskforce on Patent Statistics, the database is designed to assist advanced statistical research. As it is SQL-based, users will need a solid grounding in databases and relational database management systems.
Further details can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org.