The EPC provides a legal framework for the granting of European patents, Before 1978, two important problems when seeking to obtain patent protection in Europe in a number of countries were first the need to file a separate patent application in each country, with a subsequent distinct grant procedure in each country, and secondly the need to translate the text of the application into a number of different languages.
During the 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." There are only two types of centrally executed procedures after grant, the opposition procedure and the limitation and revocation procedures.
The opposition procedure, governed by the EPC, allows third parties to file an opposition against a European patent within 9 months of the date of grant of that patent.
However, the first patent applications were filed on 1 June 1978 (date fixed by the Administrative Council which held its first meeting on 19 October 1977). The EPC is separate from the European Union (EU), and its membership is different; Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Turkey, Monaco, Iceland, Norway, the Republic of Macedonia, San Marino, Albania and Serbia are members of the EPO but are not members of the EU.
The Convention is, as of January 2015, in force in 38 countries.
A diplomatic conference was held in November 2000 in Munich to revise the Convention, amongst other things to integrate in the EPC new developments in international law and to add a level of judicial review of the Boards of Appeal decisions.
The revised text, informally called the EPC 2000, entered into force on 13 December 2007.
While the European Patent Convention does not totally overcome the need for translations (since a translation may be required after grant to validate a patent in a given EPC Contracting State), it does centralise the prosecution in one language and defers the cost of translations until the time of grant.
In September 1949, French Senator Henri Longchambon proposed to the Council of Europe the creation of a European Patent Office.
The European Validation phase starts when the notice of Intention to Grant is received from the European Patent Office. The first stage is the acceptance of the grant which must be carried out within 4 months of receiving the notice of Intention.