50 years of European patent
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the European Patent Convention (EPC), also known as the Convention on the Grant of European Patents. Signed on 5 October 1973, the EPC created the European patent system, i.e. the European patent.
Effects in Finland
Finland joined the EPC on 1 March 1996. It radically affected the Finnish patent field, as the EPC made it possible to gain the exclusive right conferred by patents, not only through the Finnish authority, i.e. the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, but also by submitting an application to the European Patent Office (EPO).
Initially, this meant that the number of applications in Finland decreased dramatically because most foreign applicants started to validate European patents instead of submitting national applications. However, strong collaboration within the international patent network in Europe has offered considerable benefits for the industry and applicants over the years. The competence of the Finnish representatives and authorities has also gained recognition in Europe.
European Patent Organisation
The EPC led to the establishment of the European Patent Organisation. Completely independent of the European Union, the European Patent Organisation consists of 39 states, of which Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, among others, are not members of the EU. In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina has entered into a cooperation agreement with the EPO, while Morocco, Moldova, Tunisia and Cambodia have signed an extension agreement on the validation of European patents.
After a European patent has been granted, the applicant must decide in which EPC countries they wish to have patent protection. In most countries, such as in Finland, a separate validation is required to get the protection. The applicant must also pay annual fees in any countries where the protection is maintained. Consequently, the European patent is not a supranational patent but a bundle of national patents.
In June 2023, the unitary patent system was introduced alongside the European patent. There are 17 EU member states in the system.
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