How do I apply for a European patent?

To protect your innovative product or process in the European Union (EU), you can apply to the European Patent Office (EPO) for a European patent. A European patent is really a bundle of national patents.

Applying for a patent in individual EU countries

When applying for a European patent, you can state the countries where you want protection. More information on applying for a patent in EU countries is available on the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (

Unitary patent: one procedure for almost EU-wide protection

The unitary patent is expected to be launched in the EU in late 2017. When applying for a European patent, you can then opt for it to have ‘unitary effect’. This means you will no longer have to list the countries where you want patent protection. Separate patents will only be needed for Spain and Croatia. You can read more about the unitary patent on the EPO website.

Unitary patent costs less

Applying for a patent in all EU countries separately currently costs at least €20,000. An application for a unitary patent will cost less: about €6,000. This is partly because the application procedure will be simplified. You will not have to draw up the unitary patent in different languages. It only needs to be in English, French or German.

Nor will you have to take account of the different rules in different countries. This will reduce the administrative burden on businesses.

Unified Patent Court

With the introduction of the unitary patent, there will be one central Unified Patent Court in the EU. Its central division will have its seat in Paris, with sections in London and Munich. Participating countries can also set up local divisions. In the Netherlands the local division will be situated in The Hague.

The Unified Patent Court will hear disputes about unitary patents and ‘ordinary’ European patents. This means that to protect your patent you will no longer have to bring cases before all the separate national courts.