Applying for a patent in Europe
In order to obtain a filing date at the European Patent Office (EPO) it is necessary to provide an indication that a patent is sought, an indication of the applicant for the patent and a description of the invention.
Within one month of the filing date it is necessary to pay the Official Fees for filing and search, and within two months of filing it is necessary to provide a set of claims and to file a translation of the application into English, French or German (if it is not already in one of these languages).
The EPO typically issues a search report within about 6 months and the request for examination must be filed within 6 months of the publication of the search report.
While the patent application is pending at the EPO, it is necessary to pay annual renewal or maintenance fees until grant.
Once a patent has been accepted for grant it is necessary to file translations of the claims into the other two Official languages of the EPO, e.g. if the application was in English, a translation of the claims into French and German must be filed. It is also necessary to pay the grant fee.
After grant of the patent it must be validated in whichever European countries the proprietor wishes to have patent protection. Typically validation involves filing a translation of the claims in an official language of that country, together with payment of a fee. Annual fees are then payable in each country in which the patent has been validated for the life of the patent.
The date of grant also starts a nine month period in which the patent may be opposed by third parties centrally at the EPO.
Click here for a flow chart setting out the application procedure in Europe.