The unitary patent, to be granted and administered by the EPO, will complement existing routes to patent protection in Europe. It will simplify procedures and lower costs for patent owners, while increasing legal certainty thanks to the introduction of a Unified Patent Court. Since the 25 participating EU member states reached political agreement in late 2012, steady progress has been made.
In December 2014 the Select Committee, set up by EU member states to work out the legal and financial details of the unitary patent, approved the draft rules for its implementation, except for budgetary and financial issues. This paves the way for the EPO to implement procedures related to the unitary patent in its IT systems. Throughout 2014, the Select Committee continued work on fixing the level of renewal fees, and this should be decided in the course of 2015.
In 2014 five more countries followed Austria (2013) in ratifying the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court: Belgium, Denmark, France, Malta and Sweden. Draft ratification bills were under discussion in several other national parliaments. To enter into force the Agreement needs to be ratified by at least 13 states, including France, Germany and the UK.
On the technical side, the work of the UPC Preparatory Committee progressed well, with a strong emphasis on consulting users, which is crucial to building confidence in the future system. In September 2014, a new Expert Panel - composed of outstanding judges, lawyers, patent attorneys and business representatives - was set up to advise the Committee. In November, a public hearing on the UPC's draft rules of procedure took place in Trier. Another step forward was the official opening in March 2014 of a dedicated Training Centre for future UPC judges in Budapest.