Once you have verified that your invention can be patented and that patenting is the right option (check previous steps), you will have to select the best route to protect your invention.
If you are seeking protection in only a few countries, it may be best to apply directly for a national patent to each of the national offices. In that case, EPO provides links to National Patent Offices and a detailed list of National Bank accounts for paying the corresponding fees.
If you aim to apply for an international patent, the European Patent Office accepts applications under the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The Guide for Applicants (Part 1 and Part 2) will give you a general overview of the procedure involved in applying for a European patent, also offering practical advice to smooth the way through the various stages. The EPO additionally offers several online services.
In any case, although professional representative services are mandatory only for applicants residing outside Europe, the EPO advises all applicants to seek legal advice and offers an up-to-date database of professional representatives to support the IPR process.
Regarding international IPR, patenting the procedure involves the next steps:
- Application and filing: a European patent application consists of a request for a grant, a description of the invention, claims, drawings (if any) and an abstract. After submitting the application, the EPO checks whether all the necessary information and documentation is available and, if so, a filing date is established for the application.
- A European search report is drawn up to assess the novelty and inventive step of the invention.
- Publication: the application is published 18 months after the date of filing or, if priority was claimed, the priority date. Applicants have six months to decide whether to pursue their application by requesting substantive examination or not
- Substantive examination: when the request for examination has been made, the EPO examines if the European patent application and the invention meet the requirements of the European Patent Convention and if the patent can be granted. If the result is positive, the patent is granted.
- Final steps: the patent is submitted for national validation in each of the designated states within a specific time limit to retain its protective effect and be enforceable against infringement. Furthermore, it may be opposed by third parties.
The described administrative steps involve the payment of some fees and expenses.