Some American inventors may want to protect their idea in Europe, which can be a very lucrative market outside the United States. There are several options available to apply for Europe patent protection, and the one you select will depend on the nature of your invention and your target markets.
You can choose to apply under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) or the European Patent Convention (EPC). The best option for those seeking protection in just a few EU countries may be to apply for national patents directly with those countries patent offices.
The most popular European countries for individual patent applications include the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
When applying for a patent under the European Patent Convention, you will need to submit a request for grant, claims, description, drawings, and abstract. Inventors can file their application at any European Patent Office and the application can be submitted in any language.
German, English, and French are the official languages of the EPO, so if the application is in another language then a translation into one of the official languages will be necessary.
The European patent procedure is in line with the international norm which allows for publication of the patent application 18 months from the priority date. It also requires that the applicant file for a Request for Examination before a review by an Examiner is granted.
This review will examine the application on its merits, and the EPO will then issue a Search Report which will uncover the prior art which is most relevant.
The Search Report is published upon completion and then a request for examination and an examination fee must be submitted, along with fees for each state which is designated on the application. The application will then be reviewed by a European Examiner based on the merits.
The Examiner may call for amendments to the application, such as a characterization of claims.