European Patent Convention

The European Patent Convention (EPC) was adopted in 1973 and signed by 16 states. In the first contracting states the agreement entered into force four years later. Until 2022 it was signed by a total of 39 states, all belonging to the EU. A similar convention was already discussed in the 1940s. Kurt Haertel, patent lawyer and former president of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (Patent- und Markenamt) decisively participated in the decision process of EPC.

In accordance with EPC the European Patent Organisation was founded, consisting of the European Patent Office and a supervisory authority – the managing board. Since 1983 there is a cooperation with the patent offices of Japan and the United States of America. 2007 marks the beginning of a cooperation of the five biggest patent offices in the world, including China and Korea, also called “IP5”. In the same year the revision “EPC 2000” entered into power, which was adopted seven years before and integrated the latest developments in the field of international law into the convention.

Especially articles 52 to 57 of the convention are relevant for the granting of patents. According to Art. 52 “European patents shall be granted for any inventions, in all fields of technology”, under the condition that the inventions are new, based on inventive steps and susceptible of industrial application. In the following articles the terms are specified. Discoveries, scientifical theories, mathematical methods, aesthetic creations, and others are explicitly named not to be inventions. Patents are granted for 20 years and can be prolonged.

In 2013 some contracting states decided to introduce the Unitary Patent. Before patent applications were assessed by the European Patent Office but still had to be validated in each state which was associated with varying requirements and additional costs. The Unitary Patent makes it possible to gain patent protection in all 17 states that agreed to it with one single application. 

Almost 190,000 patent application were submitted in 2021. About half of the applications were handed in by contracting states of the EPC of which Germany accounts for the biggest proportion of 14 %. A quarter of all application came from the United States. Most of the applications are submitted in the field of digital communication, as well as in the areas of medical and computer technologies.

Convention on the Grant of European Patents  Online Version

Website of the Europeant Patent Office Online Version

Further information concerning the Unitary Patent Online Version

Information about European patents from the German Patent and Trade Mark Office Online Version

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