I'm trying to understand the difference between a patent published in europe (or a publication with any country code) and an EP publication (published in EPO).

What is the difference between publications starting with EP and publications starting with other country codes (DE, GR etc')? Does publications starting with the country code EP we're first published in one country and then published by the EPO?

2 Answers 2


Patents and patent applications are published with a two-letter code specifying the office that published it. Patents and patent applications with a EP code have been published by the European Patent Office while patents and patent applications with a national code (e.g. DE) have been published by the corresponding national office.

Like any other office, the European Patent Office only publishes applications that they received. As a result, an application filed at a European National Office will not be published with a EP code unless the applicant filed an application for the same invention at the EPO.

The set of patents and patent applications covering the same invention is called a patent family. Because the European Patent Organization adds a supranational route, there are many possible scenarios for a patent family to include EP and national members (e.g. DE or GR in your question).

For example:

  1. Applicant filed an application at a national office (e.g. at DPMA in Germany) and this application is published with the corresponding 2-letter code. This first application provides applicant with the priority date.

  2. Applicant filed a PCT application within 18 months, and this application is published by the WIPO (Worldwide International Property Organization) with a WO code.

  3. Applicant designated the EPO from the PCT, and this application is published by the EPO with a EP code.

  4. Applicant is eventually granted a European patent, published with a EP code. Applicant validates this patent in European national offices. Some of them will actually generate a code, yet this will not yield to a publication, unless the specification is translated.

Alternatively, applicant could first file at the EPO, and the application will be first published with a EP code, then file a PCT and eventually designate a European state.

Please note that the European route remains a non-mandatory, yet easier way to obtain patents in member states. Applicants usually prefer to file at the EPO as it is the easiest (and cheapest) route to get a patent in several EPO member countries, as there is a single prosecution, in a single language, etc.

Still, one could first file at the DPMA (and the application will be published with a DE code), then file another patent application for the same invention at the INPI, France's national office, and get a FR code.

Yet, several offices actually no longer perform search and delegate it to the EPO. Typically, this is what INPI does. Besides, with Unitary Patents and the Unified Patent Court, that have yet to enter in force, national routes will make less and less sense, except probably to get a cheaper priority date, as national offices have lower filing fees.

  • so if I have a patent registered in Germany it is protected only in Germany? what protects the patent from being registered in any other country? would inventors prefer applying in EP \ WO or in specific countries?
    – YSY
    Sep 9, 2013 at 9:01
  • If you have a patent only granted by Germany, your protection will be limited to Germany. Yet, if you file a patent application, it qualifies as prior art as soon as it is published by the national office (and immediately for this office), thus theoretically preventing others from getting a patent on the same invention elsewhere in the world, at least if the office finds your application during search. Edited answer to reply to the last part of your comment.
    – Paul Guyot
    Sep 9, 2013 at 10:20

If by saying "in the end" you mean eventually as opposed to the suffix at the end of the number then:

The EPO publishes applications filed with it and it publishes patents granted by it. At this moment in time, EP patents are not enforceable in any court. An EP patent can be "validated" as a UK patent, DE patent etc. and then be enforceable in the courts of the respective countries. So an EP patent can become a family of per country patents. The reverse is not true. If one files in the UK one gets a UK patent. An applicate can choose to file three patents in three European countries, fight three examiners operating under different laws and end up with three unrelated patent rights or can file once with the EPO deal with one examination and then pick which European countries to have it rubber stamped in.

  • So any patent published in one of the European countries will be published by the EPO eventually? if you would want to search for a patent, where will you search? EP documents? Thank you.
    – YSY
    Sep 9, 2013 at 7:27
  • Patents and patent applications published by a national office will not be published by the EPO unless applicant filed an application at the EPO and obtained a patent from the EPO. To search for patents and for patent applications in Europe, Espacenet is one of the best sources. To get details on the legal status of patents and on the prosecution, several national offices have online registers, one click away from Espacenet.
    – Paul Guyot
    Sep 9, 2013 at 7:57

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