Companies and inventors will soon have a further option when seeking to patent their inventions in Europe. After decades of stalemate, 25 of the EU's 27 member states reached agreement in 2012 on the introduction of a unitary patent and Unified Patent Court.
This historic decision clears the way for the long-awaited improvement of the European patent system by providing unitary legal protection for inventions in all EU member states (except Spain and Italy) in one fell swoop. Granted and administered by the EPO, the unitary patent will be a truly supranational patent. It will not be necessary to validate and translate the patent, nor have it administered nationally in each and every state separately. The new patent will co-exist with national patents and the 'classical' European patent.
Together with a dedicated unified patent litigation system, the unitary patent will simplify post-grant administration and litigation procedures and significantly lower the costs for patent owners. That is an advantage for businesses in Europe, especially SMEs and research institutes, and will also make Europe even more attractive for inventors from all over the world. The new system is expected to strengthen Europe's competitiveness and bring it on a par with other regions, such as Asia and the US. And thanks to its unitary protection effect and the creation of a specialised patent court ruling with Europe-wide effect on patent infringement and validity, the new patent will provide greater legal certainty to businesses.
The EPO has been designated by the EU member states to grant and administer the unitary patent. This will entail a number of additional tasks, such as maintaining the register of unitary patents and collecting renewal fees. Throughout 2012, we have prepared the ground to be ready to take on our new role the day the first unitary patents will be granted.