Since 1 March 2018, it has been possible to obtain patent protection in 44 countries across Europe and beyond into north Africa and southeast Asia, by filing a single patent application in the European Patent Office (EPO).

In addition to the 38 countries that are member states of the European Patent Organisation, patent protection can be obtained in some additional countries by paying further official fees to the EPO at the same time as paying the EPO’s official designation fee, and then confirming the local registration of the patent in those countries after a patent has been granted by the EPO.

Between 1993 and 2009, the EPO entered into cooperation agreements with ten countries in the European region that were not EPO member states. Most of those countries have since become full member states, but it is still possible to use these agreements to obtain protection in Montenegro and in Bosnia & Herzegovina. These are referred to by the EPO as “extension states”.

More recently, the EPO has entered into agreements with countries that are further afield, known as “validation states”. In 2015 it became possible to validate a European patent in Morocco and in the Republic of Moldova. In December 2017, Tunisia was added as a further validation state and, most recently, a validation agreement with Cambodia came into effect on 1 March 2018. Under these agreements, it is possible to validate a European patent in these countries, where it will then confer essentially the same protection as a European patent would in one of the EPO’s member states.

It should be noted that it is not currently possible to use this EPO validation route to obtain patent protection in Cambodia for pharmaceutical products. This is because pharmaceutical products are excluded from patent protection in Cambodia, as permitted under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) waiver for Least Developed Countries. It is, however, still possible to file patent applications for pharmaceutical inventions in Cambodia: they will be put on hold until the waiver expires, currently expected to be in January 2033. At that stage, protection in Cambodia may be granted for the remainder of the patent term, calculated from the filing date of the application.