What is a European Provisional Patent Application?
European provisional patent applications offer a convenient, time-saving route to patent granting. Not only does this save time and costs, but it also allows you to nationalize your patent in Europe through the central grant procedure that also grants provisional protection in most EU member states.
Once your European patent application is published 18 months after filing date or priority date, you are entitled to provisional protection in all contracting states of the EPC (except those that have not joined the convention). Furthermore, this means you can claim reasonable compensation from third parties who infringe upon your patent.
Obtaining a European patent
If you have created a novel product or process, European patenting is an ideal way to safeguard it. This grant of exclusive rights over your invention for an agreed-upon period (usually 20 years) means others cannot make, use or offer for sale anything based on your patented creation.
The initial step in obtaining a European patent is filing an application with the EPO. This involves providing information about your invention, naming and describing any inventors involved, as well as providing a search report indicating how well other people’s inventions have already been protected (known as “prior art”) around the world.
Alternatively, you can obtain an earlier filing date by applying for priority within one year of submitting your earliest patent application to a national patent office that is party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. This procedure, known as “claiming priority”, allows you to receive patent protection simultaneously in most countries that have signed on to this treaty.
Once your filing is complete, the European Patent Office will inspect it to confirm all formalities have been fulfilled as required by law. This process typically takes around two months.
At the end of this period, your European patent application will be published in the EPO’s patent bulletin. At that point, they can decide whether or not to examine it; if so, you will be notified.
Once the EPO determines your application meets patentability criteria, they will issue a notice of allowance. Once granted, you will receive both a European patent number and certificate verifying your right to receive such protection.
Once granted, a patent can be validated in certain contracting states of the European Patent Convention through validation. This involves paying fees to each office in those designated countries and providing them with translations either of the entire specification or claims.
It may not be as straightforward as you think – there are potential pitfalls and legal complications that could arise. It is essential to be aware of these potential issues and seek legal counsel prior to taking any action based on your European patent.
Filing a European patent application
If you want to protect your invention across at least four European countries, filing for a European patent application is the most economical option. This process provides the same rights as a national patent in all 39 member states of the EPO (European Patent Organization).
First and foremost, you must file an application with the European Patent Office or equivalent in your country. This can be done electronically or via postal service. Upon filing, you will be provided with a filing receipt that identifies your application number and serves to prove to third parties that you have filed a patent application.
Once your European patent application is filed with the EPO, it must be provided with certain information and documentation so they can assess whether it meets European patenting criteria. If everything checks out as expected, you will be awarded a filing date (also referred to as a priority date).
Once the filing date, you must submit your claims along with any drawings you have prepared within two months. After this deadline has passed, the EPO will check all documentation you have submitted and produce a “search report”. This report lists all documents available to them which could support the novelty and inventive step of your invention.
Once approved, your European patent is issued – provided certain formal requirements have been fulfilled. Your patent will then be valid in your chosen countries for three to five years and enforceable from its grant date; furthermore, you are free to contest it at the EPO during opposition proceedings.
Should you choose, you may revoke your European patent at any time during the nine month opposition period. During this time, the EPO will consider all submissions and may hold a hearing to hear all sides’ perspectives.
Once the opposition period is over, a European patent is considered valid for nine months from grant. Any third party can then file an application to challenge it in the EPO. The EPO will assess each claim’s merits and make a determination as to whether to uphold, amend or revoke the patent.
Examination of a European patent application
The EPO (European Patent Office) typically reviews European patent applications to determine if they can be granted.
Once a European patent application has been filed, the EPO reviews it to assess whether it meets certain criteria such as novelty and inventive step. On average, this process can take anywhere from six months to several years before an initial examination report is issued; however, depending on individual circumstances the speed may vary.
An examination report outlines any objections to the application and provides a response deadline. If the EPO decides to grant the patent, they will issue an official decision that is published in the European Patent Bulletin.
However, if the EPO doesn’t believe it can grant a patent, an applicant has the right to appeal and appeal. Reasons for refusal can range from lack of inventive step or non-novel subject matter.
In most cases, multiple examination reports will be issued before the Examining Division makes their final determination whether to accept or deny an application. These documents provide rationaled arguments in opposition to objections and amend claims as necessary.
Some applicants will request oral proceedings before the Examining Division if they believe it would be beneficial to their case. These hearings typically take place in Munich or The Hague and an examiner listens carefully to all parties involved’ arguments.
Once an opposition is filed, the EPO will send a notice of opposition to the applicant. During this period, applicants have the opportunity to make submissions and amendments to their application as well as attend hearings if desired.
At this stage, the examiners of the opposition division will decide if an application can be rejected and notify the patentee accordingly. The patentee then has nine months during which to appeal their refusal.
If a patent application is rejected, the applicant has the option of requesting its withdrawal and filing an application for nonprovisional patent and/or foreign patent within one year of the provisional application’s filing date. Doing this will start the examination process for any new applications as well as commence any patent that might issue from these nonprovisional/foreign applications.
Grant of a European patent
Once your application has passed the EPO’s examination and been determined eligible for a European patent, you will receive notification that your application has been granted (under Rule 71(3) of the EPC). This notification includes a version of your application text which the EPO intends to grant known as the “Druckexemplar”).
A European patent offers protection in all member countries of the London Agreement, provided it has been validated in each country. To validate your patent claims, you must assign an address for service in each nation, file translations of your claims and pay any applicable fees.
In this period you have the opportunity to file observations and objections to your European patent application, providing feedback on whether it is likely patentable. This information can help you decide whether it is worth continuing with the patent application.
Oppositions to a European patent may be brought by any third party who believes the invention lacks novelty or inventive step. This is often done by competitors of the applicant.
The opposition process can be complex and drawn-out. It typically involves three examiners working in opposition divisions.
Once granted, you are given a nine-month window in which third parties can file an opposition against the grant of your European patent. In such case, the patent could potentially be revoked or limited centrally at the EPO.
It is essential to realize that the opposition process can take a considerable amount of time and be costly. Therefore, you should carefully weigh up the costs and advantages associated with applying for a European patent before you proceed.
A European patent offers you more than just the right to enforce it in your home country. It also serves as a basis for extending protection beyond that country to other European nations that are signatories to the London Agreement. This saves money in the long run as you can avoid bringing lawsuits back home against companies who have acquired your technology elsewhere.