European Patent

The European Patent Office was organized in 1978 to make the protection of inventions in contracting states easier,
cheaper and more reliable by creating a single European procedure for granting patents on the basis of a uniform
body of substantive patent law.

So far, the contracting states include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republik, Denmark, Estonia,
Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco,
the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,Turkey and the
United Kingdom.

A European patent confers on its proprietor, in each contracting state for which it is granted, the same rights as would
be conferred by a national patent granted in that state. If the subject matter of the European patent is a process,
the protection conferred by the patent extends to the products directly obtained by that process.

However, this is a single, uniform filing procedure, not a uniform European patent. After granting the patent, the EPO
turns it over to the contracting states, which each handle it as a national patent. This means one needs a translation for
nearly every state, and must pay annuities every year as for a national patent. The applicant also needs to appoint an
authorized representative to handle these steps.

Any infringement of a European patent is dealt with by national laws, and a plea of nullity has to be requested according
to the specific national law.

Notwithstanding, an inventor still can use the old national routes and file a national patent application in countries, in
which he is doing or is planning to do business.

If an inventor is only interested in about three or four European countries, filing of national applications normally will
be cheaper.

If an inventor wants to file an application in more than three or four states, filing a European patent may be cheaper than
filing separately. However, much of the costs, e.g. translation costs, are merely postponed.

In summary, whether to adopt the European or the national method depends on the specific case and the importance
of the invention.

Therefore, the following method is recommended: First the inventor files an application at his own national Patent Office,
and at the end of the priority year, either files a European patent application or separate national patent applications,
depending on the target countries.

According to European Economic Community law, patents cannot be used to restrict exports or imports within the
Community. Once a patented product enters the free market with the consent of the patent owner or licensee, export
to other European states is allowed. It is possible to specify in license agreements that a British licensee, for example,
may only manufacture in Great Britain, and may not export to Germany, but distributors cannot be prohibited from
exporting anywhere, whether or not there is a patent in the importing country.