A common route to patent protection in Europe is to file European patent applications, allowing a single application to be filed and examined at the European Patent Office by highly competent examiners. The European Patent Office is a supranational institution independent from the European Union and therefore Brexit does not affect European patents.
Once the Search Opinion of the European Patent Office is received for a European patent application, the future path of examination is usually reasonably predictable to experienced patent attorneys. A European patent application provides a convenient way of obtaining Europe-wide patent protection for an invention that is usually less expensive than prosecuting separate applications in individual European countries.
However, the official fees of the European Patent Office are quite high. An estimate for a European regional phase entry is € 3,200, consisting of filing, search, examination and designation fees. There are also substantial annuity fees to be paid whilst the European patent application is pending, and there is a large grant fee to be paid on allowance. For some inventions, however, sufficient protection may be obtained in Europe by filing in just one or two countries. The obvious candidates are the two largest European economies, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The typical official fees for filing, search, examination and grant of the European Patent Office amount to more than four times the equivalent fees in Germany and the UK combined. In the UK there are no annuity fees due whilst applications are pending, and the annuity fees for German applications are comparatively low. Another benefit is that, whilst the law in Germany and the UK is substantially the same as that of the European Patent Convention applied by the European Patent Office, examination in these two states tends to focus on novelty and inventiveness and is less strict in connection with rather formal issues of “clarity” and “added matter.” This often leads to allowance with less official correspondence than would be expected before the European Patent Office.
Last but not least, applicants can benefit from the Patent Prosecution Highway between the patent offices in Germany and the UK. A patent granted in one of the countries can be used to accelerate examination in the other.
At Dehns we provide a “one-stop shop” able to file both German and UK patent applications. Please contact us if you wish to receive further advice about an appropriate filing strategy in Europe.