Filing of a European patent application

General provisions

In written proceedings before the European Patent Office, the requirement to use the written form shall be satisfied if the content of the documents can be reproduced in a legible form on paper.

In proceedings before the European Patent Office, documents may be filed by delivery by hand, by postal services or by means of electronic communication. The President of the European Patent Office shall lay down the details and conditions and, where appropriate, any special formal or technical requirements for the filing of documents. In particular, he may specify that confirmation must be supplied. If such confirmation is not supplied in due time, the European patent application shall be refused; documents filed subsequently shall be deemed not to have been received. 

Where the Convention provides that a document must be signed, the authenticity of the document may be confirmed by handwritten signature or other appropriate means the use of which has been permitted by the President of the European Patent Office. A document authenticated by such other means shall be deemed to meet the legal requirements of signature in the same way as a document bearing a handwritten signature which has been filed in paper form.  

Any translation filed, shall be deemed to be a document making up the European patent application.

The documents making up the application shall be presented so as to allow electronic and direct reproduction, in particular by scanning, photography, electrostatic processes, photo offset and microfilming, in an unlimited number of copies. All sheets shall be free from cracks, creases and folds. Only one side of the sheet shall be used. 

The documents making up the application shall be on A4 paper (29.7 cm x 21 cm) which shall be pliable, strong, white, smooth, matt and durable. Each of the documents making up the application (request, description, claims, drawings and abstract) shall commence on a new sheet. The sheets shall be connected in such a way that they can easily be turned over, separated and joined together again. 

All the sheets contained in the application shall be numbered in consecutive Arabic numerals. These shall be centred at the top of the sheet, but not placed in the top margin.

The lines of each sheet of the description and of the claims shall preferably be numbered in sets of five, the numbers appearing on the left side, to the right of the margin. 

The request for grant of a European patent, the description, the claims and the abstract shall be typed or printed. Only graphic symbols and characters and chemical or mathematical formulae may, if necessary, be drawn or written by hand. The typing shall be 1½ spaced. All text matter shall be in characters, the capital letters of which are not less than 0.21 cm high, and shall be in a dark, indelible color. 

The request for grant of a European patent, the description, the claims and the abstract shall not contain drawings. The description, claims and abstract may contain chemical or mathematical formulae. The description and abstract may contain tables. The claims may contain tables only if their subject-matter makes the use of tables desirable. Tables and chemical or mathematical formulae may be placed sideways on the sheet if they cannot be presented satisfactorily in an upright position. Tables or chemical or mathematical formulae presented sideways shall be placed so that the tops of the tables or formulae are at the left-hand side of the sheet. 

Values shall be expressed in units conforming to international standards, wherever appropriate in terms of the metric system using SI units. Any data not meeting this requirement shall also be expressed in units conforming to international standards. Only the technical terms, formulae, signs and symbols generally accepted in the field in question shall be used. 

The terminology and the signs shall be consistent throughout the European patent application. 

Each sheet shall be reasonably free from erasures and shall be free from alterations. Non-compliance with this rule may be authorized if the authenticity of the content is not impugned and the requirements for good reproduction are not thereby jeopardized.


The request for grant of a European patent shall be filed on a form drawn up by the European Patent Office. 

The request shall contain: 

(a) a petition for the grant of a European patent; 

(b) the title of the invention, which shall clearly and concisely state the technical designation of the invention and shall exclude all fancy names; 

(c) the name, address and nationality of the applicant and the State in which his residence or principal place of business is located. Names of natural persons shall be indicated by the person’s family name, followed by his given names. Names of legal persons, as well as of bodies equivalent to legal persons under the law governing them, shall be indicated by their official designations. Addresses shall be indicated in accordance with applicable customary requirements for prompt postal delivery and shall comprise all the relevant administrative units, including the house number, if any. It is recommended that the fax and telephone numbers be indicated; 

(d) if the applicant has appointed a representative, his name and the address of his place of business;

(e) where appropriate, an indication that the application constitutes a divisional application and the number of the earlier European patent application; 

(f) the number of the original European patent application;

(g) where applicable, a declaration claiming the priority of an earlier application and indicating the date on which and the country in or for which the earlier application was filed; 

(h) the signature of the applicant or his representative; 

(i) a list of the documents accompanying the request. This list shall also indicate the number of sheets of the description, claims, drawings and abstract filed with the request; 

(j) the designation of the inventor, where the applicant is the inventor. 

If there is more than one applicant, the request shall preferably contain the appointment of one applicant or representative as common representative.


The description of the invention shall: 

(a) specify the technical field to which the invention relates; 

(b) indicate the background art which, as far as is known to the applicant, can be regarded as useful to understand the invention, draw up the European search report and examine the European patent application, and, preferably, cite the documents reflecting such art; 

(c) disclose the invention, as claimed, in such terms that the technical problem, even if not expressly stated as such, and its solution can be understood, and state any advantageous effects of the invention with reference to the background art;  

(d) briefly describe the figures in the drawings, if any; 

(e) describe in detail at least one way of carrying out the invention claimed, using examples where appropriate and referring to the drawings, if any; 

(f) indicate explicitly, when it is not obvious from the description or nature of the invention, the way in which the invention is industrially applicable.

The description shall be presented in the manner and order specified above, unless, owing to the nature of the invention, a different presentation would afford a better understanding or be more concise.


The claims shall define the matter for which protection is sought in terms of the technical features of the invention. Wherever appropriate, claims shall contain: 

(a) a statement indicating the designation of the subject-matter of the invention and those technical features which are necessary for the definition of the claimed subject-matter but which, in combination, form part of the prior art; 

(b) a characterising portion, beginning with the expression “characterised in that” or “characterised by” and specifying the technical features for which, in combination with the features stated under sub-paragraph (a), protection is sought.

European patent application may contain more than one independent claim in the same category (product, process, apparatus or use) only if the subject-matter of the application involves one of the following:

(a) a plurality of interrelated products, 

(b) different uses of a product or apparatus, 

(c) alternative solutions to a particular problem, where it is inappropriate to cover these alternatives by a single claim.

Any claim stating the essential features of an invention may be followed by one or more claims concerning particular embodiments of that invention.

Any claim which includes all the features of any other claim (dependent claim) shall contain, if possible at the beginning, a reference to the other claim and then state the additional features. A dependent claim directly referring to another dependent claim shall also be admissible. All dependent claims referring back to a single previous claim, and all dependent claims referring back to several previous claims, shall be grouped together to the extent and in the most appropriate way possible.

The number of claims shall be reasonable with regard to the nature of the invention claimed. The claims shall be numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals.

Except where absolutely necessary, claims shall not rely on references to the description or drawings in specifying the technical features of the invention. In particular, they shall not contain such expressions as “as described in part … of the description”, or “as illustrated in figure … of the drawings”.

Where the European patent application contains drawings including reference signs, the technical features specified in the claims shall preferably be followed by such reference signs relating to these features, placed in parentheses, if the intelligibility of the claim can thereby be increased. These reference signs shall not be construed as limiting the claim.

Where a group of inventions is claimed in a European patent application, the requirement of unity of invention shall be fulfilled only when there is a technical relationship among those inventions involving one or more of the same or corresponding special technical features. The expression “special technical features” shall mean those features which define a contribution which each of the claimed inventions considered as a whole makes over the prior art. The determination whether a group of inventions is so linked as to form a single general inventive concept shall be made without regard to whether the inventions are claimed in separate claims or as alternatives within a single claim.

Any European patent application comprising more than fifteen claims shall, in respect of the sixteenth and each subsequent claim, incur payment of claims fees as laid down in the Rules relating to Fees.

The claims fees shall be paid within one month of filing the first set of claims. If the claims fees have not been paid in due time, they may still be paid within one month of a communication concerning the failure to observe the time limit. If a claims fee is not paid in due time, the claim concerned shall be deemed to be abandoned. 


Drawings shall be executed as follows: 

(a) Drawings shall be executed without colourings in durable, black, sufficiently dense and dark, uniformly thick and well-defined lines and strokes. 

(b) Cross-sections shall be indicated by hatching which should not impede the clear reading of the reference signs and leading lines. 

(c) The scale of the drawings and their graphical execution shall be such that electronic or photographic reproduction with a linear reduction in size to two-thirds will allow all details to be distinguished without difficulty. If, exceptionally, the scale is given on a drawing, it shall be represented graphically. 

(d) All numbers, letters, and reference signs appearing on the drawings shall be simple and clear. Brackets, circles or inverted commas shall not be used in association with numbers and letters. 

(e) Generally, all lines in the drawings shall be drawn with the aid of drafting instruments. 

(f) Elements of the same figure shall be proportional to one another, unless a difference in proportion is indispensable for the clarity of the figure. 

(g) The height of the numbers and letters shall not be less than 0.32 cm. For the lettering of drawings, the Latin and, where customary, the Greek alphabets shall be used. 

(h) The same sheet of drawings may contain several figures. Where figures drawn on two or more sheets are intended to form a single figure, the figures on the several sheets shall be so arranged that the whole figure can be assembled without concealing any part of the partial figures. The different figures shall be arranged without wasting space, preferably in an upright position, clearly separated from one another. Where the figures are not arranged in an upright position, they shall be presented sideways with the top of the figures at the left side of the sheet. The different figures shall be numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals, independently of the numbering of the sheets. 

(i) Reference signs not mentioned in the description and claims shall not appear in the drawings, and vice versa. Reference signs to features shall be consistent throughout the application. 

(j) The drawings shall not contain text matter. Where indispensable to understand the drawings, a few short keywords, such as “water”, “steam”, “open”, “closed” or “section on AB”, may be included. Any such keywords shall be placed in such a way that, if required, they can be replaced by their translations without interfering with any lines of the drawings.

Flow sheets and diagrams shall be deemed to be drawings. 


The abstract shall indicate the title of the invention. 

The abstract shall contain a concise summary of the disclosure as contained in the description, the claims and any drawings. The summary shall indicate the technical field to which the invention pertains, and shall be drafted in a manner allowing the clear understanding of the technical problem, the gist of the solution of that problem through the invention, and the principal use or uses of the invention. The abstract shall, where applicable, contain the chemical formula which, among those contained in the application, best characterises the invention. It shall not contain statements on the alleged merits or value of the invention or on speculative applications thereof.  

The abstract shall preferably not contain more than one hundred and fifty words. 

If the European patent application contains drawings, the applicant shall indicate the figure or, exceptionally, the figures of the drawings which should be published with the abstract. The European Patent Office may decide to publish one or more other figures if it considers that they better characterise the invention. Each essential feature mentioned in the abstract and illustrated by a drawing shall be followed by a reference sign placed in parentheses. 

The abstract shall be drafted in such a manner as to constitute an efficient instrument for the purpose of searching in the particular technical field. In particular, it shall make it possible to assess whether consultation of the European patent application itself is necessary. 


The European patent application shall not contain: 

(a) statements or other matter contrary to “ordre public” or morality; 

(b) statements disparaging the products or processes of any third party or the merits or validity of the applications or patents of any such party. Mere comparisons with the prior art shall not be considered disparaging per se; 

(c) any statement or other matter obviously irrelevant or unnecessary under the circumstances.

If the application contains matter prohibited mentioned above, the European Patent Office may omit such matter from the application as published, indicating the place and number of words or drawings omitted.

If the application contains statements referred above, the European Patent Office may omit them from the application as published, indicating the place and number of words omitted. Upon request, the European Patent Office shall furnish a copy of the passages omitted.