Twenty western European countries are parties to the European Patent Convention (as of November 2000). A patent application filed under this convention will, when granted, usually automatically be effective in each of the countries designated by the applicant.
The European Patent Convention (EPC) came into force in 1977and established the European Patent Office (EPO). Ireland became a member of the organisation with effect from 1st August 1992. The main advantage and purpose of the EPC is that is allows patent rights to be obtained in any one or more of the EPC contracting States by making a single European patent application. This may be considerably cheaper than making a separate "national" application in each country. When granted a European patent has the effect of a national patent in each of the Countries designated. European patent applications may be filed either with national patent offices or directly with the Hague Branch of the EPO.
The international convention governing the application for, processing and grant of a European patent.