THE EUROPEAN PATENT
Since 1.03.2004 Poland has been a party to the European Patent Convention (EPC). Since that day Polish owners of inventions have been able to file their inventions as fully-fledged Applicants with the European Patent Office in Munich, applying for a patent valid for the area of all or a selected group of member-states of the EPC Convention.
Currently 38 states participate in the EPC. The Convention then is not an EU mechanism, although in fact all EU states are parties to the EPC Convention. In 1973 Poland was invited to sign the EPC Convention, which was impossible for Political reasons.
Under the EPC Convention procedure, only patents for inventions are granted. The application can be filed directly at EPO in Munich, or in the Polish Patent Office, which sends the application to Munich. However, after the application has been sent, the Applicants have to carry out the procedure before EPO on their own. Contrary to the PCT procedure (see ‘the PCT system’), under the EPO procedures the patent is granted during the international phase. After a patent has been granted under the EPC procedure, the Owner has to deliver relevant documents to obtain national patents in individually selected states. Further protection is continued before the national Patent Offices, however, without processing the application procedure in every state, which has been completed during a single proceeding before EPO in Munich. The European patent is then transformed into a range of national patents in the countries where the right-holder filed relevant documents.
For the purposes of the proceedings, EPO manages a list of professional agents called the European Patent Attorneys, who are affiliated in the Institute of Professional Representatives – EPI.