European Application Process
A European patent application is a formal application to the European Patent Office (EPO), and provides legal protection of the invention within each European country. The length of the process depends on a number of external variables, but on average the decision to grant could be received in just over 42 months. A European Patent is granted centrally by the EPO, then requires national registration and is enforceable nationally. (It does not have automatic effect throughout the EU.)
The European Patent System is established under a Treaty from the European Union. The European Patent Office (EPO) is based in Munich, and has a branch in the Hague. It operates in English, French and German languages only.
An EP application filed by a British applicant will usually claim priority from an informal British patent application. In this case, it must be filed within 12 months of the British application and will contain a specification including claims and drawings. Renewal fees during EPO prosecution are payable every year from the second anniversary of the European application date.
II) EUROPEAN PUBLICATION
This occurs 18 months from priority.
III) EUROPEAN SEARCH
If the search has not already been made by the EPO, the EPO performs and publishes a search.
IV) EUROPEAN EXAMINATION
This follows payment of a fee within six months of EP search publication, unless there was an International Preliminary Examination Report in a PCT application. Please note that the examination may be slow, but once a report is received, there is an opportunity to amend the claims.
For grant, it is necessary that the claims be translated from English into French and German and that grant and printing fees are paid.
VI) NATIONAL REGISTRATION
The European patent will be effective in individual European countries only when registered there. Translation into local languages is required, except for the countries which are party to the London agreement, brought into effect by President Sarkosy’s signature for France, thus English, French and German prosecuted European patents do not require local translation in these countries.
For nine months following European Patent grant it can be opposed centrally in the EPO on grounds that the claimed invention is not patentable. Opposition can be hard fought and protracted.
VIII) ANNUAL RENEWAL
Nationally registered patents require annual renewal for their 20 year life.
THE LONDON AGREEMENT
The London Agreement entered into force on 1 May 2008 with the aim of reducing the costs related to the translation of European patents. The agreement allows states with an official language in common with an official language of the EPO (French, German or English) to dispense with any prior translation requirements, and states with a separate official language to those of the EPO to only require translation of the claims section.
|Simple Case||Typical Case||Complex Case|
|Examination Request and Designation*||£2,600||£2,800||£3,300|
|Grant and Printing||£2,600||£2,600||£2,600|
|Total – incl. Official fees excl. VAT||£8,900||£10,100||£12,500|
*in all countries