The European Patent Convention (EPC) allows a single patent application to be filed in respect of all countries party to the convention.
Since it was set up in the 1970s, membership of the EPC has been steadily growing. Most recently, on 1 October 2010, Serbia joined the EPC, following Albania which joined on 1 May 2010. Serbia is the 38th member state, and will be automatically designated in all European patent applications filed on or after 1 October 2010.
The contracting states of the EPC are all of the 27 EU member states plus Albania, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey. On filing, all European patent applications automatically designate all of these countries. In addition, there are two extension states to which the application may be extended on payment of a fee; these are Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.
Once the patent is granted, it must be validated in each designated country in which patent protection is required. If the patent is not validated in a particular country, then the patent will not enter into force in that country.
Prior to May 2008, validation involved providing a complete translation of the granted patent for each country. From 1 May 2008, the London Agreement has been in effect, reducing the need for translations. The London Agreement stipulates that a country which has an official language of English, French or German (the official languages of the European Patent Office) waives the requirement for a translation of the specification. Any country which does not have an official language in common with the EPO designates one of the official languages, and waives the requirement for a translation if the patent was granted in that language, though a translation of the claims may still be required.
The London Agreement has greatly reduced the cost of validating a European patent in those countries which have acceded to it, as the translation costs have been drastically reduced.
The Republic of Hungary has now deposited its instrument of accession to the London Agreement. This will be effective from 1 January 2011, making Hungary the sixteenth state to join the Agreement.
The practical result of this is that, for any patent granted on or after 1 January 2011, where the patent was granted in English, a Hungarian translation of only the claims will be required. These new rules will also take effect for amendments introduced as a result of opposition, appeal or limitation proceedings where the patent was granted before 1 January 2011 but the proceedings were resolved on or after that date.
13 December 2010