The next major intellectual property (IP) treaty that I would like to discuss in this blog is The European Patent Convention or Convention on the Grant of European Patents. The treaty was signed in 1973 and became effective in 1977.

The treaty established the European Patent Organization, the first major regional patent organization. The European Patent Organization has two organs, the European Patent Office and the Administrative Council. The European Patent Office acts as the executive body of the organization by examining patents, plant variety protections and utility models.  

Thirty-eight countries are parties to this agreement. Many of the parties are also members of the European Union, but membership in the European Union is not mandatory. In fact, the United Kingdom will most likely remain a party of the organization if it leaves the European Union.

The European Patent Convention allows a patent application, effectively, to file a single patent application in all of the member states. The European Patent Office will perform a search, publish the application and examine the application. If the application is granted, then the application can obtain a patent in each of the member states by resolving a few formalities.

The European Patent Office can also perform an administrative proceeding, which is known as an opposition, within nine months of the grant of the patent. Through these “opposition proceedings,” third parties can seek to have the patent grant revoked.

Patent owners cannot enforce their patents through the European Patent Office. Patent owners can only enforce their patents through litigation in the member states.

The European Patent Office is one of the “fiveIPoffices,” which is an association of five of the most important patent offices in the world. The other members of those groups are the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Japan Patent Office, the Korean Intellectual Property Office and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China.

The European Patent Office also cooperates with other patent offices through programs like the Patent Prosecution Highway and has a special program for applications that are filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.