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The following states are currently the member states of the European Patent Convention: Austria, Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Finland, France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Montenegro*, Morocco**, Republic of Moldova**, Tunisisa**, Cambodia**.
* - extension states,
** - validation states.
The European Patent Convention (EPC) provides a centralized unitary procedure for the grant of patents for the EPC member states on the basis of a single application in one of the official languages of the European Patent Office (English, German or French).
Applications for European patents may be filed with the European Patent Office in Munich, The Hague or Berlin, or with a national patent office of any of the state parties to the EPC. After filing the European patent application, the grant procedure includes the formal examination, the establishment of a search report, the publication of the application and the search report. The substantive examination of European patent applications is carried out upon the request of the applicant and includes the examination of patentability of the claimed invention, i.e. whether the invention is novel, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable. The examination results in the decision to grant or to refuse to grant a European patent in respect of some or all designated states.
Where the European patent application is filed in one of the official languages (English, German or French), the European patent is valid automatically on the territory of the United Kingdom, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, France and Switzerland. It is necessary to conduct the procedure of validation if the applicant wishes to obtain patent protection in other EPC member states, which requires the filing of a translation of at least the patent claims into the national language of the respective member state.
A European patent provides its owner with the same rights as a national patent in each state for which it is granted. The term of a European patent is 20 years from its filing date.
More detailed information about the European patent system can be found on the European Patent Office website.