EPO oppositions: A cost-effective alternative to litigation

Philip Thomas and Tony Proctor

An opposition at the European Patent Office (EPO) is the only way to challenge the validity of a European patent centrally. Philip Thomas and Tony Proctor look at why it's a better option than national proceedings.

EPO oppositions are vastly cheaper than invalidity proceedings in each national court. In approximately 50 percent of cases, an opponent achieves success in the form of complete revocation or significant limitation of the patent. Oppositions represent an important tool for dealing with any European patent of a competitor that might pose a threat to commercial activities in Europe.

A European patent, once granted, begins a process of validation in each contracting state designated upon filing. At the end of this process, the patent holder is left with a separate national patent in each country. As a result, any challenge to the validly of the granted patent in the courts must be made on a country-by-country basis. However, the opposition procedure at the EPO provides an opportunity to challenge validity centrally for all 36 designated states.

Approximately 5 percent of all European patents are opposed, although this varies depending on the particular area of technology to which the patent relates.

Europe, EPO, litigation, patents, opposition