The term European patent is used to refer to patents granted under the European Patent Convention (EPC). However, a European patent is not a unitary right, but a bundle of national patent registrations.
The EPC provides a legal framework for the granting of European patents via a single, harmonised procedure before the European Patent Office (EPO). A single patent application, in one language,
European patent applications are prosecuted in a similar fashion to most patent systems – the invention is searched and published, and subsequently examined for compliance with the requirements of the EPC. During the unitary prosecution phase, a European patent is a single regional proceeding, and the grant of a European patent may be requested for one or more of the Contracting States.
Once granted by the EPO, a European patent comes into existence effectively as a group of national patents in each of the designated Contracting States. A European patent confers rights on its proprietor, in each Contracting State in respect of which it is granted, from the date of publication of the mention of its grant in the European Patent Bulletin. Nevertheless, a translation of a granted European patent must be filed in some EPC Contracting States to avoid loss of right (“validation”). Once validated, the patent will remain active as long as you continue to pay the yearly annuities in the designated Contracting States.
There are only two types of centrally executed procedures after grant, the opposition procedure (which allows third parties to file an opposition against a European patent within 9 months of the date of grant of that patent) and the limitation and revocation procedures.