When you have a good idea, a good product, or a new design, you want to make sure it is protected; you want to make sure it becomes a commercial commodity and that nobody can use it without your explicit permission. That’s why you need a patent – to ensure the intellectual property is protected and to make sure that you are able to sell it (should you want to at a later date).

However, patents and their applications can often seem like complicated issues, and it’s not always clear what needs to be done, how long it’s valid, and in which areas. If you’re thinking about claiming and registering intellectual property in Europe, then this one’s for you: here are your options when filing a patent application in Europe.

Doing it online

The days when you physically had to go to some patent office are over – new technology and the online world has ensured this is no longer necessary. It’s possible to apply for your patent online, using the European Patent Office’s (EPO’s) software, the new online filing platform they have available for such purposes, or software such as a regional phase filer from sach-associates.com. Check them online and read their guidelines carefully.

The automated mailbox

You may, of course, always visit the EPO in person, or submit your application via fax or mail – sometimes people still prefer this. By doing it using registered mail, you also automatically ensure that you have proof of ownership of the design (via stamp date). The EPO has offices in Berlin and in The Hague. However, you can also use an automated mailbox (their offices are in Munich and Berlin).

Term of validity

Under European law, any patent is valid for up to 20 years from its filing date. Note, however, that the approval of the actual patent may take a couple of years (as there is the publishing and then a chance for others to react before it gets approved). The 20 years start from the filing date, not from the date of approval.

What do you have to do?

Your application must contain:

  • A request for the grant (form 1001)
  • A description of the invention
  • One or more claims
  • Any drawings that refer to the invention
  • An abstract

If you have a place of business or if you reside in the EPC, you can do the application yourself. However, if you are filing for a patent and have neither a place of residence or business within the EPC, you may want to hire a representative to act on your behalf. Patent grant procedures can often be complex, so it’s always best to hire a professional. You do not need a representative for fees – anyone can make the payments.