When was the Unitary Patent system launched?
The new system was launched on 1 June 2023.
The Unitary Patent system is inextricably linked to the creation of the Unified Patent Court, which has jurisdiction over Unitary Patents and "conventional" European patents.
The EU regulations establishing the Unitary Patent system (No 1257/2012 and No 1260/2012) have been applicable since 1 June 2023, the date of entry into force of the UPC Agreement. On that date, 17 Member States had ratified the UPC Agreement (including the three Member States in which the highest number of European patents had effect in 2012, i.e. Germany, France and Italy). Additional Member States are expected to ratify the UPC Agreement in the coming years. For the state of play regarding ratification, please see the website of the Council of the EU. The United Kingdom withdrew from the Agreement in 2021 (information on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Unitary Patent system).
A Unitary Patent may be requested for any European patent granted on or after the date of entry into force of the UPC Agreement.
Initially, Unitary Patents will not cover all 25 participating Member States, as not all of them had yet ratified the UPC Agreement when it entered into force on 1 June 2023. Outstanding ratifications are likely to take place successively, so there will be different generations of Unitary Patents with different territorial coverage. The coverage of a given generation of Unitary Patents stays the same for their entire lifetime, irrespective of any subsequent ratifications of the UPC Agreement after the date of registration of unitary effect. In other words, there will be no extension of the territorial coverage of Unitary Patents to other Member States that ratify the UPC Agreement after the registration of unitary effect by the EPO.