Four central and eastern European states join the European Patent Organisation

Munich (ots) - Having ratified the European Patent Convention (EPC), Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovakia will become members of the European Patent Organisation (EPO) on 1 July 2002. This means that the European Patent Office will in future be able to grant patents for a total of 24 states. In addition to the four new countries, these are: all the EU states, plus Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Switzerland and Turkey.

This latest development continues the eastward enlargement of the EPO launched in 1999 and is set to be followed by the accession of a further six countries - Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Hungary - later this year or next year.

The European patent will then cover the entire European economic area stretching from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. Patent protection in the new member states will then be much simpler and cheaper, which in turn will encourage technology transfer and investment. Membership of the EPO will pave the way for the planned integration of these countries into the European Union.

ots Original Text: European Patent Organisation Internet: