Obtaining a European patent

How to apply for a patent in Europe

As a result of its long experience in the industry, ABM Agenzia Brevetti & Marchi of Pisa is able to assist you in applying for a European patent.

This type of patents is regulated by the European Patent Convention (EPC), and the application is to be submitted to the European Patent Office (EPO). The official headquarters of this office are in Munich (Germany), The Hague (Netherlands) and Berlin (Germany).

The official languages ​​of the application are English, French and German, the applicant chooses.

Subject to passing the merit examination, a single European patent application allows a patent to be obtained for all or some member states of the European Patent Convention, the applicant chooses.

Member countries are currently: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, Great Britain, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands , Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Monaco, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia and Turkey. The European patent may also be recognised as valid in four non-members states: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia.

The patent application must be accompanied by the description of the invention, the claims, the drawings, the summary and the proof of payment of search and filing fees. Within about six months of the date of filing, the European Office holds a first formal investigation, issues a search report that highlights any prior art with respect to the invention disclosed in the application, together with a preliminary examination opinion.

The application shall be published from 18 months of the filing or the priority date if claimed. After publication, provisional protection may be activated in each state. Provisional protection takes effect from the date of filing the translations of the claims in each country where protection is required.

For the patent to be issued, the applicant must file a request for an examination and pay the required examination fee, and designate the countries in which they wish to protect their innovation when the patent is issued, paying the required designation fee that depends on the number of countries chosen. If the number of countries is greater than 7, a flat fee is paid.

At this point, the Office starts the merit examination, intended to establish the requirements for patentability (innovation, originality and industrial application), which is performed in one or more surveys issued in the form of "examination communications" to which the applicant must submit or respond. The preliminary findings of the examination are often used as a first survey.

To speed up the merit examination, an application can be submitted at no additional cost: In this case, at the time of payment of the examination fee, it is expedient to respond to the preliminary examination findings and submit any amendments.

If the exam is passed, the Office will issue a plan to release the patent, requesting the translation of the claims into the other two official languages be filed and the issue fee paid. When this is done, the patent is granted and the relevant certificate is issued.

Recently, with the London Agreement, issued patents are automatically considered valid in the states that have implemented the directives, including Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland.

For some countries (including, for example, Slovenia, Latvia, and if the text is already in English, also Denmark, Sweden, Holland, the Netherlands and Iceland) filing with the National Office only requires the translation of the claims into the national language, within three months of issue.

For the other states that have not yet ratified the Agreement, including, unfortunately, Italy and Spain, for the European patent to take effect, both the patent description and claims must be translated into the national language.

In all countries, however, the validity of the patent is subject to payment of annual renewal fees and has a duration of twenty years.

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