Unitary Patents will make it possible to get patent protection in up to 25 EU Member States by submitting a single request to the EPO. They will build on European patents granted by the EPO under the rules of the European Patent Convention (EPC), so nothing will change in the pre-grant phase and the same high standards of quality search and examination will apply. After a European patent is granted, the patent proprietor will be able to request unitary effect, thereby getting a Unitary Patent which provides uniform patent protection in up to 25 EU Member States.
The 25 states participating in enhanced cooperation to bring about the Unitary Patent system are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.
The 17 states in enhanced cooperation which already ratified the Agreements and will participate in the Unitary Patent when it starts are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden.
Today, an inventor can protect an invention in Europe via a national patent or a European patent. The EPO examines applications for European patents centrally, saving inventors the costs of parallel applications, while ensuring a high quality of granted patents.
However, granted European patents must be validated and maintained individually in each country where they take effect. This can be a complex and potentially very costly process: validation requirements differ between countries and can lead to high direct and indirect costs, including translation costs, validation fees (i.e. fees due in some member states for publication of the translations) and associated representation costs, such as the attorney fees charged for the administration of the patent (i.e. payment of national renewal fees). These costs can be considerable and depend on the number of countries where the patent proprietor wishes to validate the European patent.
Unitary Patents will remove the need for complex and costly national validation procedures.