The European Patent Convention (EPC)

The 31 member countries of the
 European Patent Convention (EPC)

The European Patent Convention (EPC) is a treaty that established a single, unified patent examination system for 31 European countries. An applicant now files his application at the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich or The Hague, instead of at the 31 national patent offices. After grant however, he receives 31 national patents (or less, if he chooses to limit the number of countries). Enforcement of his patent rights also is a purely national affair.

The European Patent Convention was signed in Munich in 1973 and came into force on 1 June 1978. The EPO is responsible for granting patents under the EPC. Although the name may suggest otherwise, the EPC and the EPO have nothing to do with the European Union. In the future the European Union is expected to become a party to the EPC. Together with a EU Community Patent Regulation, this should finally result in a single European patent valid in all EU member states.


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