5 July 2017

European patents extend far beyond the limits of the European Union

The EPO and the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia have signed an agreement to extend, upon the request of the applicant, the validity of European patent applications and patents to Cambodia, which will make Cambodia the first Asian country to recognise European patents. The agreement is expected to enter into force later this year.

Cambodia is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia and this agreement is a means of modernising its intellectual property system, with the aim of boosting the Cambodian economy and attracting investment into the country.

This is a development that further emphasises that the European patent is not a European Union patent. The European Union (EU) has 28 member states at present, whilst the agreement with cambodia means that applicants will soon be able to obtain patent protection in up to 43 European and non-European countries with a single European patent application, and to protect their innovations in a market of more than 650 million people.

There are currently 38 Contracting states that are party to the European Patent Convention, including the 28 EU states. In addition, there are 2 Extension states, to which the effect of a European patent may be extended. Since 2015, there are also Validation agreements in place with Morocco and Moldova agreeing to recognise European patents. A Validation agreement also exists with Tunisia, but this has yet to enter into effect. Cambodia will soon be added to this list of Validation states.

It is important to note that the United Kingdom will continue to be one of the Contracting states even when it leaves the European Union. Therefore, European patents and applications will continue to cover the UK just as they do now, and European patent attorneys based in the UK will be able to continue to represent applicants before the EPO.

When the Unitary patent eventually becomes available, the potential geographical reach of a European patent application and patent will be undiminished. Rights in the 25 participating EU states will be bundled into a single Unitary patent if this option is selected by applicants. National rights in the remaining states will also be available, just as they are now.