European patent applications are single applications examined and granted centrally by the EPO, but what is obtained are separate national patents providing protection in countries chosen by the applicant at the end of the process.
It is hoped that within the next 12 months businesses will be able to use the EPO to obtain an EU patent, known as the Unitary Patent, which would cover the most EU states including the UK, provided it was still a member of the EU. British applicants who filed European patent applications last year are likely to have this option by the time their applications are granted.
Last year there were 5,037 patent applications to the EPO filed by British applicants, the highest number since 2011. However, the UK still lags behind many of its European neighbours when patent applications are counted per head of population.
“These figures are evidence that UK business see the benefit of protecting their IP in European markets and CIPA is pleased to see an increase in UK applications this year,” said CIPA president Andrea Brewster.
The overall number of European patent applications filed at the EPO in 2015 rose by 4.8% compared to 2014. This growth comes as Europe prepares for the introduction of the Unitary Patent as well as the Unified Patent Court (UPC) – a new centralised court for patents planned expected to open in 2017.