At the end of last year, the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted two draft regulations on the creation of the unitary patent as part of the “patent package” which also includes the creation of a Unified Patent Court (UPC).
“Cutting the costs of patenting inventions in Europe will strongly benefit European enterprises, especially research centres and SMEs. The vision of the founding fathers of the EPO to equip the European economy with a truly supranational patent system can now become a reality, strengthening Europe’s competitiveness.”
The unitary patent will have effect in the 25 participating European states and will allow for a more straightforward European patent system. It is based on two regulations and an international agreement, the first regulation creates the instrument and the second deals with the applicable language regime for the new patent. The UPC is the third and last component of the “patent package” and will be set up under an international convention. This will create a unified patent litigation system and will function as a single patent jurisdiction concerning infringement and validity questions related to unitary patents.
The agreement establishing the UPC was signed by 24 states on the 19 February 2013 (followed by Bulgaria on 5 March 2013) and will enter into force once thirteen EU member states have ratified the package, including France, Germany and the UK.
The unitary patent will co-exist with national patents and the classical European patent, with which it shares the legal basis and the procedure for grant (as laid out in the European Patent Convention). The only difference will occur in the post-grant phase, and unitary patents will be treated as a single patent. Therefore they will no longer need to be validated or translated, nor will they need to be administered nationally in each and every state. This will not only simplify the patent process but it will also lead to massive savings in terms of time and costs. The changes should make Europe more attractive for innovation and investors, bringing it on a par with its competitors in Asia and the US.