The European Patent is a regional patent that is jointly handled by the European Patent Office (Munich) and the granted patents have to be validated in the chosen member states. The flow chart of the procedure in English is below. The patent can be either applied for independently, independently claiming national priority within a year, or within the frame of PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty).
The official application for the patent has to be filed either in English (ca. 75%), German (ca. 20%), or French (ca. 5 %) and it is followed by a (formalities) examination. A short assessment is attached to the search report (obtained usually within a year). The application is published 18 months after its filing and since the content of the application becomes public, no further claims can be added to it. After the publication of the search report, the substantive examination has to be requested and the examination fee, along with the designation fee (regardless of the number of the chosen countries), are payable. The yearly maintenance fee, due on the anniversary of the filing date, has to be paid in advance each year. The first fee is due 22-24 months after the application. There is a 50% extra fee when the maintenance fee is paid in the month following the month it was due and if the fee is not paid at all, the procedure ends.
In the light of the search report it can be useful to amend the application before requesting the substantive examination. The Office may also require changes or corrections. The patent is usually granted within 3-4 years, and that is the time when the grant fee has to be paid and the final version of the claims (translated to all three official languages) has to be submitted. The validation request along with the required translation has to be submitted to the national office of the chosen country within three months of the publication of the grant. The next maintenance fee due after the publication of the grant is payable to the chosen national offices. Within 9 months following the grant anyone can file an opposition and, in a relatively expensive procedure, can prove that the invention is not patentable. After this deadline revocation is only possible before the national offices according to their national regulation. Legal remedy is also only possible when initiated separately in each country at present.
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