The European Patent Organisation (sometimes abbreviated EPOrg in order to distinguish it from the European Patent Office, one of the two organs of the organisation) is a public international organisation created in 1977 by its contracting states to grant patents in Europe under the European Patent Convention (EPC) of 1973. The European Patent Organisation has its seat at Munich, Germany, and has administrative and financial autonomy.
The evolution of the Organisation is inherently linked to the European Patent Convention. See European Patent Convention for the history of the European Patent system as set up by the European Patent Convention and operated by the European Patent Office.
The European Patent Organisation has two organs: the European Patent Office, which acts as its executive body, and the Administrative Council, which acts as its supervisory body as well as, to a limited extent, its legislative body. The actual legislative power to revise the European Patent Convention lies with the Contracting States themselves when meeting at a Conference of the Contracting States.
Besides, the Boards of Appeal, which do not form an independent organ of the Organisation but are integrated within the European Patent Office, are assigned the role of an independent judiciary. The European Patent Organisation is in that sense an international organisation "modelled on a modern state order and based on the separation of powers principle".
The European Patent Office (EPO[notes 1]) examines and grants European patents under the European Patent Convention. Its headquarters are located at Munich, Germany, with a branch in Rijswijk (a suburb of The Hague, Netherlands), sub-offices in Berlin, Germany, and Vienna, Austria, and a "liaison bureau" in Brussels, Belgium. The erection of a new EPO building is under construction next to its existing premises in Rijswijk.
The Administrative Council is made up of members of the contracting states and is responsible for overseeing the work of the European Patent Office, ratifying the budget and approving the actions of the President of the Office. The Council also amends the Rules of the EPC and some particular provisions of the Articles of the European Patent Convention.
There are, as of June 2012, 38 Contracting States to the EPC, also called member states of the European Patent Organisation: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom (see European Patent Convention article for the dates of entry in force in each country). The EPC entered into force in Serbia on 1 October 2010.
In addition there are "extension states" which are not Contracting States to the EPC but have instead signed extension agreements under which the protection conferred by European patent applications and patents is extended to the relevant country. These are Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Slovenia, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania and Serbia were all extension states prior to joining the EPC.