What is a European patent?

Each country has its own patent legislation regulating the application and granting of patents in that country. However, there are international conventions which facilitate obtaining corresponding patents in several countries. For the countries in Europe, this is the European Patent Convention.
This convention concerns a common patent granting procedure for a large number of European countries. These are currently all EU countries, and some countries beyond the EU. In total, it counts 38 member states (October 2010): Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Great-Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Sweden and Switzerland.
In all these countries, a patent can be obtained in two ways: indirectly through the European route directly through the national route. After the common grant procedure at the European Patent Office, a patent is granted for every country. The European patent application is then split into a number of national patents (a so-called bundle of national patents).
A European patent, therefore, does not really exist, while a European patent application does exist.

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