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Direct filing of a European patent

Search Procedure: upon receipt of the European search report

The European search report is issued around 6-9 months after filing, and contains the documents cited by the Examiner, relevant for the patentability of the subject-matter claimed in the application, as well as a written opinion of the Examiner on the patentability of the invention. Even if it is not mandatory to file a response to this European search report, it is advisable to do so, in order to accelerate the examination procedure.

Examination Procedure

At the latest six months after the mention of the publication of the European search report in the European patent bulletin, the request for substantive examination has to be filed and the corresponding examination fee has to be paid. If no priority is claimed, this publication takes places 18 months after the filing date. In case a priority is claimed, the publication takes place about 18 months after the earliest priority date. The designation fee for all designation states has to be paid within the same time limit. An extension fee for each extension state and a validation fee for each validation state can also be paid if desired within the same time limit. A first office action is then issued by the Examiner. The applicant is given a four month time limit (extendable once by two months) to file a response thereto (arguments and/or amendments to the application documents).

Grant Procedure

After the end of the examination procedure, the European Patent Office issues the application documents it intends to grant, called Druckexemplar. The applicant is given four months to pay the fee for grant and printing and to file a translation of the claims only in the other two official languages of the European Patent Office (French and German if the prosecution is in English).

Validation

After grant, the European patent is split in national patents. The national offices do not examine the patent, however a validation step is required in most of the countries.

This validation step most often requires the filing of a translation in the national language of all or part of the patent and the payment of a national fee.

Since the London agreement, the validation step is reduced for several countries, among which France and Germany (see our detailed list and specific requirements) where the translation is no more required.

Renewal fees

The renewal fees are to be paid to the European Patent Office up to grant of the patent, from the third year from the filing date.

After grant, the renewal fees are due before each national office.

Opposition

During a 9-month period from the publication of the grant, third parties may file an opposition.

See more details on the oppostion proceeding.

During the opposition, the renewal fees are still due before the national offices.

In case the European patent is maintained in amended form as a result of the opposition proceedings, validation steps are to be accomplished again before the national offices in the same way as after grant.

Limitation and revocation

According to Article 105a of EPC 2000, the patentee has the possibility to file a request for limitation or revocation before the EPO.