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European Patent Office

The European Patent Office (EPO) grants European patents. Despite what the name suggests, these are not European Community patents or even Europe-wide patents. The European Patent Convention, according to which the EPO was founded, provides a single patent grant procedure, but not yet a single patent. After grant, the European patent becomes a number ("bundle") of national patents.

The EPO is seated in Munich/Germany with a branch in Rijswijk (suburb of The Hague/Netherlands) and sub-offices in Berlin/Germany and Vienna/Austria.

There are (as of December 2003) twenty-seven contracting states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. In addition there are four so-called "extension states" which recognise European Patents. These are Albania, Latvia, Lithuania and Macedonia. Further countries are expected to join the EPO in due course.

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