A European Patent Attorney (EPA) is an attorney who has passed the European Qualifying Examinations(a highly specialised qualification necessary to enable representation on behalf of clients before the European Patent Office(EPO)) and is thus duly qualified to assist individuals or companies in in obtaining patents and acting in all matters and procedures relating to European patent law and practice, such as filing a patent application and / or an opposition. EPA's have rights of advocacy before the EPO.
Generally, it is a prerequisite to have a technical or scientific qualification / background (for example in Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Electronics, Mechanical Engineering or pharmacology or Physics ) prior to attempting the EQE, and much recently one is required to have passed
a pre-examination before being allowed to sit for the main examination.
Typical duties for EPA's include advising clients regarding the patentability of their inventors ( novelty, inventive step, industrial application); offering commercial viability opinions; ascertaining infringement / validity ( infringement and validity assessments); Drafting / preparing
applications for patents and presenting specifications to the EPO; handling oppositions ;
Responding to communications from the EPO; Attending hearings at the EPO; Prosecuting applications; Defending clients or responding to alleged infringement claims on behalf of clients; Instructing Counsel or Solicitors in patent infringement litigations, etc. Liaising with foreign attorney,
and instructing / getting instructions from foreigh attorneys; planning and advising on protection strategy on behalf of a client; IP aspects of reverse engineering; Advising on legal points of patent law/ European Patent Convention (EPC)(A multilateral treaty instituting the European Patent Organisation (of which the EPO is its executive arm)and providing an autonomous legal system according to which European patents are granted).
In the UK, any person can act before the UK Intellectual Property Office, and it is not necessary to be an EPA or UK registered Patent Attorney, although we would highly recommend that you talk to an IP specialist if you have a Patent issue, or want to protect your invention with a European Patent, because Patent law is extremly specialised, and in the asbsence of appropriate advice, you could encounter major difficulties which may affect your IP rights, may make it difficult for you to sell your products in certain jurisdictions, may limit the scope of protection of your rights, and such like