That may sound trivial, but it is not. As a person whom is born and raised up in Europe, I can tell you that "European" has no fixed meaning at all, and each and every European relates to this term in a different way.
For example, let us look at Turkey. Turkey is a part of Europe geologically as it sits on the European tectonic plate. For centuries, Turkey, or its predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, has been deeply involved in Europe. The Ottoman Empire extended deep into the European peninsula, until a century ago, and it shaped the history of Europe. It was the nemesis of some powers in Europe and an ally of others. Read chapter 14 of Friedman\\'s book "Flashpoints" if you want to understand more, I have put a review here. For me, Turkey is classified as a European nation, but many Europeans think differently.
As a further example, in contrast, Tunisia is not part of Europe, despite the country is located being near to Europe. Over many years, close relations with Europe – in particular with France and Italy – have been forged through economic cooperation and marriages. Tunisia is not part of Europe as it is sitting in the continent of Africa. I am not aware of anybody who thinks that Tunisia is part of Europe.
The European Union (EU) does not include all countries of the whole continent of Europe, and especially not only not Turkey and not Tunisia, but also not Switzerland, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, all nations that are located in the heartland of Europe.
The EU has its own court system with the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU, formerly know as the ECJ) at the top, and with the Unified Patent Court (UPC) which is expected to be soon active in those member states of the EU participating in the UPC system.
The European Union has its own intellectual property office, the EUIPO (former OHIM), which is responsible for EU trademarks (former Community Trademark/CTM) and EU designs (former Registered Community Design/RCD), but not for patents.
EU patents are European Patents with Unitary Effect (EPUE), more commonly known as Unitary Patents (former Community Patents), and they are expected to be soon registerable only in those countries which are EU members participating in the UPC system.
Unitary Patents are issued by the the European Patent Office (EPO), which is NOT a EU organization.
European Patent Convention
The European Patent Convention (EPC) comprises not only European countries, but also countries that are not European, take for example, (in the view of some) Turkey. Some, not all, member states of the EPC are members of the EU. Tunisia is neither a member of the EU nor of the EPC. However, it has signed a validation agreement with the European Patent Office (EPO). This agreement, once entered into force, will enable EP patents to have legal effect in Tunisia.
The EPO issues European Patents (EP) under the legislation of the EPC, which has to be validated in some or all of the EPC member states.
Presently, the EPO provides the most sophisticated prior art search globally and the EPO Appeal Chamber is the most predictable patent court in the world. This is not important for this article but for a long time, I have wanted to put it in writing somewhere.
If you bookmark this little article, you never again need to confuse the meaning of European acronyms, such as EPO, CJEU/ECJ, EP, EPUE, EPC, EPO, EU, EUIPO, OHIM, CTM, RCD, etc.
For example, you understand why in most cases a European Patent Attorney, whom is of Turkish nationality, can prosecute an EP patent before EPO and litigate a Unitary Patent before the UPC, but not before a national court of one of the member states in EU.
I have never seen it written in a few paragraphs only even though you may already are aware of the aforementioned information. We are now all on the same page and I can continue explaining the new Unified Patent Court system and the Unitary Patent system.
As you may have anticipated already, you will see here that the new Unified Patent Court system and the Unitary Patent system is not less complicated than what I have described above.