The following international conventions are currently in place which the UK is a member or signatory:
TRIPS ie the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property 1994. TRIPS requires compliance with the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). Provided members fall within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which they must adhere countries will adhere to stringent standards. TRIPS guarantees that patents are to be “available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step, and are capable of industrial application”.
Patent Co-operation Treaty 1970 (PCT). This make life easier for those wishing to obtain a patent in a number of different countries. It enables you to to file a single application, specifying the countries in which protection is sought although. After a single search and the option of a single initial examination, you will then have the application pursued separately in each country
European Patent Convention 1973 (EPC). This also makes life easier for obtaining a patent in different countries but goes further than the PCT by providing a single route to the grant of a European patent. Once granted, the European patent seeks to harmonise the national substantive patent laws throughout Europe. Although the EPC covers the EU and certain other European countries, it is a separate international convention. There is new legislation namely the EPC 2000 legislation. The Patents Act 2004 was introduced which brought UK legislation into conformity with the revisions to the EPC 2000.
Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property 1883 (Paris Convention). By far the oldest international convention governing patents. It established minimum standards of patent protection which have now been replaced by those set out in TRIPS.