The proposals for a European Patent with Unitary Effect (or Unitary Patent) and associated Unified Patent Court are proceeding under the European Union 's (EU 's) so-called Enhanced Cooperation procedure by means of which a group of member states can proceed without others. Italy is one of four member states (along with Croatia, Spain and Poland) that are currently not participating.
On 13 May 2015 the Italian Ministry of Economic Development indicated that participation in the Unitary Patent system is now a priority for Italy. The official post in Italian can be found here.
It is believed that this change of heart in Italy follows the Court of Justice of the EU 's dismissal of the Spanish Challenges to the Unitary Patent. Our news item on this matter can be found here.
We also understand from the official statement that the Italian Government believes that Italian participation in the process will assist in the fight against counterfeiting, encourage foreign investment and will assist small and medium sized enterprises. In addition, the Government believes it will give them the opportunity to negotiate on renewal fees. More information on Unitary Patent renewal fees can be found here.
It will be interesting to see how Italy now proceeds. It is not expected that the Unitary Patent will become available until 2016 at the earliest.
It should be remembered that Italy has already signed the Agreement setting up the Unified Patent Court, such that non-unitary European patents validated in Italy may be subject to the Court 's jurisdiction for such patents. The Agreement will enter into force as soon as it has been ratified by 13 member states, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany (who are currently the three mandatory participants on the basis that they have the highest number of European patents in force). Malta became the sixth state (after Austria, France, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark) to ratify the Agreement on 9 December 2014. Further information on this can be found here.