There are different laws and regulations pertaining to patents and inventions in Europe. For one, they have the European Patent Office (EPO). This is the office and regulating body for all patent applications within the member countries. There are advantages to a unified European Patent Office, the most obvious of which is that there is only one centre for application of patents, instead of applying in all the member countries one at a time. Another is that this can increase the number of inventions possible within an organisation.
A patent lawyer in Europe also does not need to possess qualifications for all the member countries. That would be tedious for patent lawyers. The alternative is to have a lawyer for each of the countries. That can become problematic very quickly, as more countries join the organisation.
A European patent attorney has to be qualified before establishing practice. The European Patent Convention (EPC) requires the lawyer to be:
- a national of one of the EPC member countries;
- have an office or place of business within one of the EPC member countries; and
- have passed the European Qualifying Examinations (EQE).
The President of the EPO can grant exemptions to the requirement of nationality according to special circumstances. For the EQE, the aspiring patent lawyer should “possess a university-level scientific or technical qualification.” Without a technical college degree, a candidate can instead show relevant experience via 10 years’ work experience in a technical capacity.
In contrast, there is no technical requirement for a patent lawyer in the United States. It is considered as more or less a practice of corporate law. Technical knowledge is left to the experts who are asked to study the patents.
The requirement for scientific or technical qualifications makes it easier for a European patent attorney to present the case of an application being for a new invention, or a new process. It also helps the whole process that technical people are describing a technical and scientific matter. This also makes the whole process go faster, as well as allowing for more patents to be granted.
There are also some other differences between the patent application landscape in Europe and in the United States. These differences make for a compelling reason to keep a lawyer for both European and American patent filings. Alternatively, there are patent law firms in the United States and in Europe which handle cases for both territories.
At some point, when a patent becomes successful, it has to be applied for both Europe and the Americas. This is specially true for those inventions and products which are going to be sold across borders. With today’s world economy and globalisation, companies strive to have their products patented across the globe to prevent the competition from copying them.