What is the unitary patent?
This is a system for the protection of intellectual property rights in all the countries that have decided to join the Unitary Patent Court Treaty.
Currently, 17 states have ratified the treaty: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Slovenia.
However, there are 8 more states participating in the enhanced cooperation to make the Unitary Patent system a reality, namely Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
As a result, this new system will make it possible to obtain patent protection in up to 25 EU Member States by filing a single application with the EPO, which will simplify the procedure and make it more cost-effective for applicants.
How to obtain a unitary patent?
Before the EPO can register a unitary patent, the applicant must obtain a European patent. The European patent application must therefore be filed and processed under the European Patent Convention (EPC) in the same way as at present.
Once the European patent has been granted, the holder has a period of one month from the date of publication of the mention of the grant in the European Patent Bulletin to file a « request for unitary effect » with the EPO in order to obtain a unitary patent.
In order to be registered as a unitary patent, the European patent must have been granted with the same set of claims in respect of all 25 participating Member States.
What are the functions of the unitary patent court?
The Unitary Patent Court (UPC) is a court composed of a Court of First Instance and a Court of Appeal, which will resolve disputes between patent holders and between patent holders and third parties.
As regards its structure, it should be added that a Patent Mediation and Arbitration Centre is provided to encourage amicable settlements.
The Court will be composed of judges from all participating contracting Member States. The panel of judges is composed of legally qualified judges and technical judges with extensive experience in patent litigation.
The UPC will provide a uniform, specialised and efficient framework for patent litigation at European level. It will hear both infringement and revocation actions. The Court will have exclusive jurisdiction over European patents with unitary effect registered under Regulations (EU) No 1257 and 1260 / 2012 on unitary patent protection (unitary patents), as well as « classical » European patents.
The cost of a unitary patent
The unitary effect of the patent will also be reflected in the costs, so that there will be a single annuity fee for all countries. This is a single payment that is centralised through the EPO. This will reduce the cost of a patent that is to be protected in different territories as, with a single application and translation, it can have effect in all the different countries that have ratified the unitary patent agreement.