What is the European Patent Office?
Getting a utility patent in Europe a bit different than patenting in other foreign countries. A single utility patent application may be filed with the European Patent Office or EPO. The EPO is one of the few patent offices in the world where an applicant can file a single application and designate multiple countries. This gives the applicant a more cost-effective way to prosecute a pending application without having to first decide which individual EU countries to pick.
How does an EPO filing work?
An applicant may file a single utility patent application with the EPO designating multiple member countries. If and when the application is allowed, the applicant must then decide which individual member countries in which the patent will be granted. This deferred “validation” process will include costs for validating in each country. Keep in mind you will need to pay yearly renewal taxes (“annuities”) in each validated country for the remaining term of the patent.
An applicant who has first filed a US patent application may file directly with the EPO within twelve months of the priority date. Alternatively, if a PCT application is timely filed, an applicant may file a national stage application with the EPO within 31 months from the priority date.
How does an EPO application differ from a PCT application?
A PCT application is merely a placeholder – it does not lead to a granted patent. Filing a PCT application delays the deadline for filing national applications in each desired member country. A PCT applicant desiring patent protection in Europe still needs to file individual applications in each desired European country or a single application with the EPO designating desired European countries. As a default, most EPO applications simply designate all member countries since the cost plateaus beyond a small number of countries.
What European countries are members of the EPO?
As of the date of this post-Brexit post, the EPO member countries include:
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom (*note the UK is still a member of the EPO following Brexit)
- Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- San Marino
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