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Patents in Europe

Written by Tim Mount on 29 October 2008

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A European Patent application may be filed at the UK IPO (United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office) or in English, French or German at the European Patent Office (EPO) and can designate more than thirty states which are party to the European Patent Convention . These are currently: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland (including Lichtenstein), Turkey and the UK.

Shortly after the European Patent Office issues the formal “Decision to Grant”, various steps must be taken at the local Patent Office of each designated European country in which the applicant desires the European patent to take effect.

For this purpose, a local language translation (where appropriate) of the claims and description may need to be prepared and filed at the relevant local Patent Office by an appointed local professional. The cumulative costs will of course reflect the number of countries and the length of the text to be translated.

Each separate national phase patent must then be maintained by paying annual renewal fees to the relevant Patent Office.

On balance, where patent protection is desired in three or more European countries, a European patent application is generally more cost effective than three separate national foreign patent applications. It is possible to apply for a GB patent and a EP (UK) patent.

When and where the EP (UK) patent grants, it will take precedence over the GB designation. There is a recognised difference in the examination procedure that may lead to broader scope being granted via the EPO but the GB patent issuing first.

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