How to apply for a European patent

There are different possibilities when applying for a patent, including a European patent application, which the European Office of Patents (with headquarters in Munich) handles. An applicant can also designate a European patent within a PCT patent application.

The application process involves submitting a European patent application in English, French or German. Subsequently, the applicant is given the so-called European search report, which (like the state of the technique report for Spanish patents and the international search report for PCT patent applications) informs the applicant of the patentability of the invention.

The patent application is published eighteen months after the submission date (or priority date). Once it is published, together with when the European search report takes place, the applicant has six months to request the examination of patentability of the invention subject to the patent application.

If the applicant requests the exam, the European Office of Patents will, if it has no objections, grant the European patent. If the Office does have objections, it will invite the applicant to submit a reply and, where appropriate, correct any defects within four months. If the applicant does not answer, the European patent application is denied. If the applicant replies, the patent may be granted. If the European Office of Patents still finds objections, the applicant will be given the opportunity to submit a second reply, after which the corresponding resolution is adopted.

If a European patent is granted, the applicant must pay concession fees and file a translation of the claims into the two other procedural languages of the European Office of Patents, within four months from the corresponding notification.

Once granted, and in a period of usually three months from the publication of the granted European patent, the applicant is required in some countries to submit a translation of the granted European patent into its national language, or at least the claims, so that the European patent has full effect in those countries. In other countries, this is not necessary.

It should be remembered that within the European Office of Patents there is an opposition procedure following the granting of a patent, where oppositions may be presented nine months from the date of the publication of the granted European patent.

Throughout the granting procedure of a European patent application, it is necessary to pay the annuities to maintain it. After the grant, the applicant must pay the annuities for the designated countries where the applicant wishes to maintain protection.

Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH)

The Patent Prosecution Highway is a system that facilitates the grant of a patent in its territory, when an equivalent patent has been granted in another territory within the PPH. Therefore, it does not eliminate the (slow) patent application procedure in a given territory, but allows a quick and easy concession in another territory after first obtaining a concession in the first territory.

For further information on how to apply for a European patent,

Please note that this article is not intended to provide legal advice.

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