Last year saw the entry into force of the EU regulations on unitary patent protection in January and the signing of the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court by 25 EU member states in February, paving the way for the preparation and implementation of these two projects, which will greatly benefit European companies and inventors.
Together with a dedicated unified patent litigation system, the unitary patent will simplify post-grant administration and litigation procedures and significantly lower costs for patent owners. It will also provide greater legal certainty. That is an advantage for businesses in Europe, especially SMEs and research institutes, and will make Europe even more attractive for inventors from all over the world. The timetable for implementation is still open, and depends on EU member states ratifying the agreement on the court. At the time of writing, only Austria had done so, but draft ratification bills were under discussion in several other national parliaments.
The Select Committee, which EU member states set up in March 2013 to hammer out the legal and financial details of the unitary patent, made good progress throughout the year on the draft rules for its implementation; it also started discussions on financial issues. Due to its expertise, the EPO has been entrusted by the EU institutions with granting and administering the unitary patent. Meanwhile, the Preparatory Committee, set up in March 2013 to oversee the establishment of the Unified Patent Court, also made steady progress and drafted the court's rules of procedure, holding a broad public consultation over the summer. The EPO has observer status on this body.