Your source for the latest news on the new Unitary Patent in Europe.
What is a Unitary Patent?
A Unitary Patent is a new type of European patent with “unitary effect” for all the contracting member states of the EU. Contrary to classical European patents, which upon grant become in fact a bundle of national patents, the Unitary Patent remains a single title.
The main benefits of the new Unitary Patent are:
significant cost savings: there is no longer a need for national validation of the European patent and the yearly renewal cost is much lower compared to classic European patents which are renewed in a lot of member states;
the Unitary Patent is a single title which can be enforced before the new Unified Patent Court with immediate effect for its whole territory.
From the start, the Unitary Patent covers the following 17 states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden.
The Unitary Patent does not (yet) cover the following European States:
the United Kingdom (as a result of Brexit no longer part of the EU)
Spain, Poland and Croatia (decided not to take part in the system for now)
Albania, Iceland, Macedonia, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Türkiye (EPC member states but not EU member states)
Patent protection in these other states can still be obtained through the same patent application at the EPO but require national validation after grant.
How do I get a Unitary Patent?
The route to obtain a Unitary Patent is the same as the one for classical European patents. You file a patent application at the European Patent Office, either directly or as a regional stage application out of an international PCT application, and you prosecute the patent application before the EPO until it is granted. After grant, you have 1 month to apply for the “unitary effect” after which the patent becomes a Unitary Patent for the contracting member states.
The application for the unitary effect after grant is rather simple and only requires a single translation. If the patent is granted in French or German, the translation must be made into English. If the patent is granted in English, the translation can be in any official language of an EU member state.
If patent protection is also desired in the other European states (contracting states of the European Patent Convention where the Unitary Patent is not available), the granted European patent can be validated within 3 months after the grant like in the classic European patent system.
How much does a Unitary Patent cost?
Because the Unitary Patent is obtained through the classic granting procedure at the EPO, the cost for obtaining a Unitary Patent is the same as that for obtaining a classic European patent.
Once granted, there are significant cost reductions. Firstly, the costs for national validation (translations and official fees) can be avoided in the states covered by the Unitary Patent. Further, there are significant cost reductions in the renewal fees. For a Unitary Patent, the following renewal fees are to be paid to the EPO to keep the Unitary Patent in force:
This means that the total renewal fees for the first ten years for a European patent application / Unitary Patent are below € 5000.
Visit our calculator page to compare the renewal cost between the UP system and the classic EP system by clicking the link below.
Unified Patent Court (UPC) is a new, common court for the EU member states participating in the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA). The purpose is to offer patent owners and alleged infringers a supranational platform where patents can be asserted or attacked for the whole territory in a single court case, rather than in multiple national actions as it was the case before.
The UPC has exclusive competence to handle cases relating to Unitary Patents. The UPC further has competence to handle cases relating to classic European patents, unless the patentee “opts out” of the competence of the UPC.
Opting out of the competence of the UPC
In the future, the UPC will also be the only competent court for classic European patents in respect of the member states of the UPC Agreement.
During a transitional period of at least 7 years, the following applies:
the UPC is a competent court for an EP patent alongside the national courts
if the patentee registers an “opt-out” of the competence of the UPC, only the national courts are competent
the patentee can still withdraw the “opt-out” (= opt in again), unless a third party has in the meantime initiated a national case against the EP patent
After the transitional period is over, it will no longer be possible to opt out or to withdraw an opt-out.