27 May 2010
The European Patent Office (“EPO”) was established by the European Patent Convention (“EPC”) to grant European patents on behalf of the governments of its contracting states including the UK. European patents designating the UK (which are known as European patents (UK)) have the same effect in the UK and are subject to the same conditions as a patent granted by the IPO. The EPO is headquartered in Munich with a branch at the Hague and sub-offices in Berlin and Vienna. It is directed by a President who reports to representatives of the member states in a body known as the Administrative Council. The EPO consists of the following sections and divisions:
- Receiving Section: this is responsible for the examination on filing and the examination as to formal requirements of European patent applications;
- Search Divisions: these are responsible for drawing up European search reports;
- Examining Divisions: these are responsible for the examination of European patent applications;
- Opposition Division: this is responsible for the examination of oppositions against European patents;
- Legal Division: this is responsible for decisions in respect of entries in a register of European patents and a list of professional representatives who practise before the EPO;
- Boards of Appeal: these consider appeals from the decisions of the Receiving Section and the Examining, Opposition and Legal Division; and
- Enlarged Board of Appeal: this decides points of law referred to it by Boards of Appeal and gives opinions on points of law referred to it by the President of the EPO.
English, French and German are the official languages of the EPO and patent applications have to be filed in one of those languages. Applications may be filed in other languages provided they are translated into one of the official languages.