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European Unitary Patent: What You Need to Know
The Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC) will provide a single system to obtain a patent across most European Patent Office (EPO) countries. It will enable a one-stop-shop for registration, maintenance, and management, allowing businesses a single registry throughout the European Union (EU) in up to 25 European Union countries (aka “member states”). Businesses can anticipate a streamlined process for obtaining a patent for the participating member states.
It’s a move that marks the most comprehensive change to patent law in Europe in 50 years and has taken more than 10 years to come to fruition. The Unitary Patent and the UPC are expected to be implemented and operational in 2023.
Pros and cons of the Unitary Patent
Currently, the EPO grants patents individually per country. This requires businesses to manage multiple application fees, litigation costs, and ongoing proceedings according to national law. There can be a lack of cross-border enforcement of decisions involving validity.
With the new Unitary Patent system, you can expect a significant reduction in cost and time as you will no longer need to navigate multiple processes, translation requests, and fees of each individual country. You will simply pay one single renewal fee equivalent to the cost of four renewal fees, which are the equivalent to the current combined fees of the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
- Centralized administration. There will be a single source for registration, maintenance, and management. All post-grant administration will be managed by the EPO and all litigation will be handled by the UPC.
- Single reduced renewal fees. Renewal fees will cost less as multiple fees for various countries will not be needed.
- Time and monetary savings. The more countries where the Unified Patent is validated, the more potential businesses must save time and money.
- Unified protection. The unitary patents will lead to unified protection under the UPC.
- Reduced translation costs. It is anticipated that any one of the EPO languages will be sufficient and there will be consistency in treatment across national boundaries.
Though 25 countries are Member States currently participating in enhanced cooperation, meaning they allow for the Unitary Patent, there will still be several countries that do not participate. This will require businesses to still apply for a separate patent in non-participating countries.
As litigation will be conducted through the UPC, this also means that revocation would occur in all countries covered by the Unitary Patent. There may also be extra costs involved due to the litigation being handled by the court.
- Cost threshold. It is estimated that applicants may not see a cost savings unless the business wants protection in at least 6 countries.
- EU participation varies per country. Not all European countries are current member states. Revocation. Patents can be revoked for all member states in a single action.
- Unknowns of the UPC. Businesses who choose to apply for a Unitary Patent will adhere to the UPC, which will be a new judicial body. Expenses and timelines relating to UPC litigation cannot be predicted. It will take time to learn the trends and biases of the UPC.
- Unknowns of United Kingdom participation. As a result of Brexit, it is also unknown how or if the UK will participate.
The goal of worldwide protection
The industrialized world and Europe in particular, has been trying for decades to find a system that would protect patent rights across national borders. Anything resembling a worldwide patent would have to come in the form of a treaty like the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), but this is a huge undertaking that appears to have had a greater chance of happening before Brexit and other international relations issues.
Navigating the new system
It is important that businesses seeking global patents understand the changes and impacts the Unified Patent will have on your intellectual property strategy. Patent protection and prosecution may become more streamlined but will also require re-evaluation of processes. Han Santos has extensive experience filing and drafting patents both domestically and globally, including the European Union. Contact us today and we can help you navigate the changes.
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