This chapter addresses the genesis and evolution of the patent system, since the first patent statute was issued in Venice in 1471, until the international harmonization pressures of patent regimes at the end of 20th century. The European Patent Office (EPO), which began its activity in 1978, has established a common examination procedure and common standards for patenting all over Europe. The main characteristics of modern patent systems are discussed, which include the subject matter (technical inventions in Europe), priority rule (first to file), inventive step, a statutory duration of twenty years after filing, prior examination of applications before grant, inventive step as minimum degree of novelty, disclosure of the protected invention, and the possibility of various restrictions on patent rights, such as compulsory licensing or working requirements.
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