After decades of discussion, the implementation of a so-called “Unitary Patent System”, i.e. the establishment of a Unitary Patent (UP) and a Unified Patent Court (UPC), has reached its final stages. The Unitary Patent (UP) aims to provide a single approach to patent protection and enforcement across 24 European Union Member States with a combined population of more than 350 million.
Using the existing European patent application procedure, a Unitary Patent will be administered centrally by the European Patent Office (EPO). Once obtained, a Unitary Patent will be enforceable throughout the participating Member States in a single action brought before the new Unified Patent Court (UPC).
The Unitary Patent will enter into force on 1 June 2023 and will be a supplement to the existing European Patent.
Initially, Unitary Patents may not cover all participating Member States as some of them may not yet have ratified the UPC Agreement when it enters into force. Outstanding ratifications are likely to take place successively, so there may be different generations of Unitary Patents with different territorial coverage. The coverage of a given generation of Unitary Patents will stay the same for their entire lifetime, irrespective of any subsequent ratifications of the UPC Agreement after the date of registration of unitary effect. In other words, there will be no extension of the territorial coverage of Unitary Patents to other Member States which ratify the UPC Agreement after the registration of unitary effect by the EPO.
If you wish to learn more about the background and history of the UPC, go to unified-patent-court.org or www.epo.org.