In 1973, the European Patent Convention (EPC) established an international organization (the “European Patent Organization”), the aim of which is to strengthen cooperation among European states (the “Contracting States”) regarding the grant of patents. In particular, the EPC allows an applicant to obtain patents throughout most of Europe on the basis of a single European patent application subjected to a single, centralized granting procedure, rather than filing and prosecuting individual applications in each country. The EPO is the office responsible for administering this procedure. The EPO is a separate agency from that of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), which focuses on trademark and design rights in European countries.
A patent granted by the EPO (a “European patent”) does not in itself confer pan-European patent protection. Rather, the European patent must be validated separately in each country where the applicant wishes to obtain patent protection. Broad European protection on the basis of a European patent will be possible if the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court comes into force. Protection outside of Europe is also possible through extension or validation agreements between the European Patent Organization and partner states. See the EPO website for more information about these extension states and validation states.
Treaties that help facilitate IP filings
Paris Convention (possibility of securing “priority” for overseas IP filings)
Under certain conditions and on fulfilling certain requirements, an application for patent, trademark, or design right filed in the EPO may be entitled to the benefit of the filing date of a prior application filed in the United States. A claim for benefit of a patent application must be made within 12 months of the U.S. filing date.
Use the below interactive map to learn more about IP protection in the highlighted countries/regions.