To protect your innovative product or process in the European Union (EU), you can apply to the European Patent Office (EPO) for a European patent. A European patent is really a bundle of national patents. Applying for a patent in all EU countries separately may cost your around at least €20,000. An application for a unitary European patent will definitely cost less, about €6,000 in fees. Due to the simplification of the procedure, you will not have to draw up the unitary patent in different languages. It only needs to be in English, French or German. Nor will you have to take account of the different rules in different countries. This will reduce the administrative burden on businesses.
But first, ”What is a Patent?”
Original ideas and creative work are assets which may be of commercial value in the same way as material goods. To protect the ideas and innovations of their respective inventors, you can apply for different intellectual property rights, such as patents.
Patents protect technical inventions. They are valid in individual countries, for a specified period. Patent protection gives you the right to prevent third parties from exploiting an invention without your permission. Before applying for a (European) Patent, we highly recommend to carry out a patent search.
Applying for a European Patent
You can apply for a European Patent in different routes. Depending on your invention and the markets your company operates in, you may at first apply for a national application (which means in your very own country). In this case, your national patent can be the basis for an EU-Patent.
Another way to apply, and the most common is, to hand in your application directly to the European Patent Office (EPO). In this case you skip the national Patent and (directly) seek EU-protection for your patent. The official languages of the EPO are English, French and German. If your application is not in one of these languages, a translation is mandatory.
Steps for application
Firstly, the examination on filing. This means that the EPO checks if every information and documentation was handed in correctly so that the application can be accorded a filing date. Meanwhile, a “European search report” is drawn up that lists all the documents available to the Office that may be relevant to proof the novelty and inventive step of your patent. It is based on the patent claims but also takes into account the description and any drawings from your application.
When the search report is completed it is sent to the applicant together with a copy of any cited documents and an initial opinion as to whether the claimed invention and the application meet all the requirements. When the above criteria is met, your application along with the search report is published. This usually takes 18 months after the date of filing.
After the publication, applicants have six months to decide whether or not to pursue their application by requesting substantive examination. Alternatively, an applicant who has requested examination already, will be invited to confirm whether the application should proceed.
If the examining division decides that a patent can be granted, it issues a decision to that effect. A mention of the grant is published in the European Patent Bulletin once the translations of the claims have been filed and the fee for grant and publication have been paid. The decision to grant takes effect on the date of publication.
After the Grant and Validation of your Patent you can not yet feel completely secure. When the Patent is published, third parties can oppose your patent grant. We will discuss post-granting procedures in another post so keep reading our blog.
Moreover, if you are wondering if your invention is patentable or not, don’t hesitate to contact us.