A unitary patent provides more affordable protection for those looking to protect their invention across as much of Europe as possible. The unitary patent will cover all EU countries, except Spain, Poland and Croatia.
Unitary patents will generally offer greater protection for patented methods in Europe. For instance, for a UK national validation of an EP patent (an EP(UK) patent), a claim directed to a method comprising steps (a) and (b) will not be directly infringed if step (a) is done in France and step (b) is done in the UK (although the direct product of the patented method is protected in the UK). In contrast, the same claim in a unitary patent will be directly infringed if step (a) is done in France and step (b) is done in the UK because both are within the territory covered by the unitary patent.
The scope of contributory infringement is also increased for unitary patents. For an EP(UK) patent, Section 60(2) of the UK Patents Act allows for “contributory infringement” if a person supplies or offers to supply in the UK means, relating to an essential element of the invention, for putting the invention into effect in the UK when he knows, or it is obvious to a reasonable person in the circumstances, that those means are suitable for putting, and are intended to put, the invention into effect. For a unitary patent, the area of the covered by the patent is extended and so contributory infringement may occur if the means are supplied in France, but the invention is put into effect in the UK.
Compared with national validations of an EP patent covering all participating EU member countries, unitary patents will come with a reduced translation burden (one translation of the entire text).
A single renewal fee at a rate equivalent to four countries will be payable each year to the EPO once grant occurs. This not only means that the unitary patent will be cheaper than national validations of an EP patent if you want to cover more than four countries, but the administrative burden is reduced (compared with paying fees to each of the national offices).
The advantages of the UPC are discussed in more detail below. However, litigation is likely to be more straightforward and cheaper with unitary patents at the UPC than in multiple jurisdictions with national validations of an EP patents. This is likely to reduce the administrative burden, especially for small businesses with little or no experience with litigation.
Licences which cover different European countries and which are based on national validations of an EP patent can be complicated and costly. Unitary patents allow the provision of pan-European licences with a single royalty.