PATENTING OF AN INVENTION IN EUROPE
The main task of the European Patent Convention (EPC) is to ensure the protection of patents for inventions, based on the common European patent procedure. This is done through a single European patent application, filed at the unitary administrative body and under a unitary patent law, which are meant to provide more effective, easier and faster protection of inventions in the EPC member states. European patents are those that are issued under the European Patent Convention (EPC).
The European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, Germany is the only body, before which the European patent registration procedure is carried out. It has offices in The Hague, Brussels, Berlin and Vienna. The procedure for issuing European patents is centralized, cost-effective and time-saving. It is conducted in one of the three working languages of the Office - English, French or German.
The registration of the European patent has territorial effect. Through it, a specific invention can be patented (protected) in 38 of the Member States of the European Patent Convention (EPC).
In each of the Contracting States for which a European patent has been issued, the holder is granted the same rights as would have been granted by means of a national patent issued in the specific Contracting State (for example, a Bulgarian patent for an invention). This system provides an advantage over the national patent procedures for invention, in which it is necessary to apply for a patent at each individual patent office of the respective designated countries in which patent protection is sought.
The European patent can also be valid in 6 additional countries that are not parties to the European Patent Convention (EPC). These are the so-called countries for validation and extension. Currently, the countries allowing extension are: Morocco, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Tunisia and Cambodia. Below is a list of all countries where patent protection can be obtained under the European Patent Convention (EPC).
The European Patent Office (EPO) assesses whether the filed European patent through a centralized procedure for issuance, meets the requirements of the European Patent Convention and whether the invention meets all three main and mandatory criteria for: novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability. The patent application for an invention may belong to any technological field.
The system of the European Patent Convention
The system of the European Patent Convention is open, which in practice means that any interested person has the opportunity to apply for an European patent, whether he is a citizen or not, has or does not have a residence or place of business in the Contracting Party, member of the European Patent Convention. An application for a European patent may also be filed simultaneous by more than one natural person. In such cases, these persons are defined as co-applicants who enjoy equal rights and have the same obligations.
The maximum term of an European patent is 20 years. This period shall run from the priority date (that of the filing of the European patent application). For this purpose, it is necessary the annual fees for the maintenance (renewal) of the European patent to be paid in a timely manner for each subsequent patent year.
The protection of inventions
The protection of inventions by means of a European patent is achieved through two available ways - directly filing a European patent application, or after entering the EURO-PCT regional phase of a previously filed international patent application (PCT). The European patent application may also, at the request of the applicant, be converted into an application for a national registration of a utility model. This is possible observing all specific conditions regulated by the relevant national law of that country.
Whichever way you choose to protect, the assistance (cooperation) of a qualified European patent attorney is absolutely recommended, and in certain cases it is mandatory. A qualified patent attorney prepares the description of the European patent application, submits the documents, conducts the procedure before the Office professionally and efficiently.
The issuance of a European patent does not automatically grant rights over a large number of acknowledged patents in each country. Following the completion of the procedure for registration of a European patent at the Central Office, it needs to be registered in each country where patent protection is sought.
The procedures, that have to be done for the recognition of a European patent in each specific country of interest for the patent holder, are called validation of a European patent. They need to be carried out within the specified period after the issuance of a European patent. The effect of a European patent on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria is possible only if it is validated at the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria.