If you are holding or applying for patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO), you should ensure that you are well informed about a major change to European patent law that is now at an advanced stage of preparation. The anticipated introduction of the Unitary Patent is expected to offer opportunities to reduce costs, extend territorial scope of protection, speed up litigation and increase legal certainty across Europe.
A Unitary Patent will be a single patent covering all participating European countries. It will be possible to obtain a Unitary Patent based on any European Patent granted by the EPO after the agreement comes into effect. It will still be possible to secure patent protection by the traditional validation route for those countries not participating in the Unitary Patent, or, for participating countries, as an alternative to the Unitary Patent.
The second big change for which preparations are being made is the establishment of a new patent court, the Unified Patent Court (UPC). Litigation involving a Unitary Patent will be subject to the sole jurisdiction of the UPC. The UPC will also have non-exclusive jurisdiction for all national validations of European Patents for the participating countries, including European Patents granted before the agreement comes into effect, unless the rights holder(s) proactively 'opt out' of the UPC.
The introduction of the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court will affect all holders of existing European Patents. It will also affect applicants for European patents that have not yet been granted. All European Patent holders and applicants will need to consider how to take advantage of the opportunities and protect themselves against the threats arising from these changes.
Despite the UK's referendum vote on 23 June 2016 in favour of leaving the European Union (EU), the UK government has announced its intention to ratify the UPC agreement. Following ratification by the UK, it would only be necessary for Germany to ratify the UPC agreement for the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court to come into effect, which may happen later in 2018.
For more information please contact Martin Jackson