Unitary European patent: uniform protection in 25 Member States
A long-awaited reform
Long awaited, the year 2023 should finally see the uptake of the European unitary patent on 1 June 2023. It will enable inventions to be protected over a wider area at a lower cost.
Two systems currently coexist
- the national patent which takes effect in each Member State;
- the European Patent (EPC) which is subject to prior examination by the European Patent Office (EPO), but which then takes effect individually in each Member State, according to its rules, procedures and associated costs.
A uniform protection system
The new unitary patent system will make it possible to obtain uniform protection through a single filing, eventually in 25 EU Member States (excluding Spain and Croatia to date) for which the EPO will be the one-stop shop.
The aim is to reduce costs but also to promote the centralisation of patent enforcement actions in the participating Member States.
A new strategic option for depositors
However, the unitary patent does not replace national patents, nor the classic European patent (EPC): it constitutes a new card in the strategic palette of applicants.
According to EPO figures, the unitary patent will be cheaper than a classic European patent (EPC) validated and maintained in 4 of the 25 Member States: the more countries where a classic European patent would have been validated, the cheaper the unitary patent will be.
Uniform protection in several countries
In practice, tomorrow, with a unitary patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO), a company will be able to have its innovations protected in seventeen Member States at once, twenty-five in the long run, or even all Member States. Only Spain and Croatia have refused to join the project, while Poland has accepted but not yet ratified the agreement.
Simplification of procedures
Under the new system, it will no longer be necessary to file/represent patents State by State, by taking twenty-five steps to have them validated Nor will it be necessary to translate them into different languages, nor to pay annual renewal fees in each country. Only one annual fee will have to be paid.
The Unified Patent Jurisdiction (UPJ)
The creation of this unitary patent is accompanied by the launch of the UPC (Unified Patent Court), whose central division is located in Paris. With the UPC, disputes will be decided in one shot, whereas today each national court can deliver its own judgment. In other words, if it decides on the invalidity of the European unitary patent, for example, or on damages for infringement, these decisions will be applied uniformly in all European States (members of the project). While the UPC will be more expensive than a national court, in general, it will be cheaper for companies to go through this one court than through all the courts in each country.
Transitional measures already in place
Transitional measures have already been put in place by the EPO so that applicants can benefit from the advantages of the reform before it comes into force. We will notify you if you fall into this category.
Systematic discussion for the definition of the protection strategy
Indeed, this unitary protection is accompanied by the risk of invalidation in all countries during the entire life of the patent The invalidation of the patent will be valid throughout the EU, which can be very damaging.
Moreover, the EPC groups together more countries than the EU(to date the unitary patent concerns only 17 countries) and the United Kingdom is no longer part of the EU. Thus, depending on your choice of countries, their number and their importance, the protection strategy may evolve.
We are at your disposal to discuss it
We would be happy to discuss this with you and help you develop the most appropriate protection strategy for your situation.