After 30 years of fruitless trying, a new European intellectual property right has been created: the European patent with unitary effect (hereinafter referred to as the unitary patent). It provides for uniform protection throughout the territories of the participating Member States, currently all the 27 member states but Spain and Poland, and should be effective shortly.
The unitary patent will be an option for companies or inventors seeking patent protection in Europe. It’s a European patent with a unitary effect.
The existing system of the European patent is a bundle of national patents which is centrally granted. After the grant of the European patent administered by the European Patent Office (EPO), the holder must choose the countries in which it wishes to receive protection, validate the European patent in those countries, and then comply with various national formal requirements (payment of national fees, providing of translation of the patent into the national language, etc.), as well as pay national annuities to maintain its patent in force in each country.
Through the new system, European patent holders will have the opportunity to request the unitary effect before EPO no later than one month after the grant of their European patent. The European patent will then be transformed into one single patent covering all the Member States (currently 25).
It will radically reduce translation and related costs as well as the administrative burden for obtaining patent protection in those territories.
The specific judicial system, named Unified Patent Court (UPC), should avoid the duplication of litigation cases before the various courts of the various Member States concerned, and the risk of multiple parallel court proceedings possibly leading to divergent outcomes should disappear.
The creation of unitary patent protection is conditional on the entry into force of the agreement on the Unified Patent Court. It will take effect on 1st January 2014 or when, if later, at least 13 Member States (including the three States with the highest number of European patents in force, i.e. France, Germany and the United Kingdom) ratify the draft agreement on the Unified Patent Court.
The unitary effect of a European Patent will only extend to those Member States which have ratified the Court agreement, but such Agreement shall remain open at any time to all willing Member States.