The European Patent Office (EPO) welcomes the signing by EU ministers today in Brussels of an international agreement establishing a Unified Patent Court (UPC), which paves the way for the implementation of a unitary patent system in Europe. Signed by 24 EU member states today in the margins of their Competitiveness Council meeting, the agreement will enter into force once 13 countries have ratified it, including France, Germany and the UK.
"The signing of the UPC agreement is a decisive step towards the long-awaited introduction of a truly supranational patent system in Europe," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "Following the endorsement of the unitary patent package by the European Parliament and Council in December 2012, the creation of a European court specialised in patent matters will be a tremendous boost for the completion of the European patent system."
The Agreement on the Unified Patent Court will lead to the creation of a specialised patent court with a first and an appeal instance competent for litigation relating to patents granted by the EPO under the provisions of the European Patent Convention, e.g. classical European Patents as well as future Unitary Patents. This is expected to bring major improvements to the current situation in which a multitude of national courts and authorities decide on the infringement and validity of European patents.
Request for unitary patents may be filed once the legal provisions for both the unitary patent and the UPC have entered into force. The two EU regulations on the unitary patent (one on unitary patent protection and the second on the translation arrangements) entered into force on 20 January 2013. However, they will only apply from 1 January 2014 or the date of entry into force of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court, whichever is later.