The European Patent Office (EPO) was established in 1977 by the European Patent Convention.
The institution is headquartered in Munich, Germany, and has branches in The Hague, Berlin and Vienna. The predecessor of the EPO is the International Patent Institute, established by 16 countries that have signed the European Patent Convention.
The activity of the Office is related to the processing and issuance of European patents.
According to the European Convention, it is possible to file a patent application in the EPO in one of the three official languages (English, French and German) and to obtain a European patent valid in one, several or all Member States, with the aim of achieving unitary patent protection.
The activities and budget of the EPO shall be monitored by the Administrative Board and the Budget Committee of the Organization, which shall be composed of representatives of 38 Member States.
Part of the structure of the EPO are also the appellate panels, which consider appeals of the expert directorates. The Boards of Appeal shall be independent and shall be governed solely by the provisions of the European Patent Convention.
The European Patent Academy is the external unit for education and training of the European Patent Office. Established in 2004, it works in partnership with a wide range of national and international institutions, including the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
Through its free portal Espacenet, the European Patent Office provides the ability to search for all active patents, which are over 110 million worldwide.
Details of the procedural status of patent applications in the EPO are provided through the European Patent Register..