Since 1977, the European Patent Office (EPO) has provided a single centralised process for granting patents in Europe. Patent applications, filed in English, French or German, are extensively searched and examined to ensure the best possible quality. After this centralised grant procedure, the patent proprietor can obtain patent protection in up to 44 countries. However, the granted European patent is not a unitary right but instead a bundle of patents with the effects of a national patent unless the EPC provides otherwise. Consequently, the patent has to be validated and maintained individually in each country in which it is to take effect – a process that involves administrative work and costs.
The Unitary Patent system eliminates these shortcomings for the participating EU Member States: the new European patent with unitary effect (Unitary Patent) offers a simplified route to uniform and broad territorial patent protection, significantly reduces red tape and brings down costs. the centralised pre-grant procedure of the European patent will be supplemented by a centralised post-grant procedure: instead of validating their European patent in several states individually, proprietors may opt for a Unitary Patent by filing a single request with the EPO, which will act as a one-stop shop. The EPO will also be responsible for centrally administering the Unitary Patent and the related renewal fee payments.
In December 2012, the EU Council and the European Parliament adopted two regulations laying the foundation for Unitary Patent protection in the EU:
- Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection (OJ EPO 2013, 111 and Official Journal of the European Union, OJ L 361, 31.12.2012, 1-8), and-
- Council Regulation (EU) No 1260/2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements (OJ EPO 2013, 132 and Official Journal of the European Union, OJ L 361, 31.12.2012, 89-92).
The Select Committee adopted the necessary secondary legislation, in particular the Rules relating to Unitary Patent Protection (OJ EPO 2022, A41), and the Rules relating to Fees for Unitary Patent Protection (OJ EPO 2022, A42).
The present booklet aims at providing a summary of the most important national measures accompanying the implementation of the Unitary Patent in the participating Member States having ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court.
The synopses given in the following tables have been prepared on the basis of the information provided by the participating Member States (see document SC/3/22 corr. 1). Although we have exercised the greatest care in drawing up the tables, we cannot vouch for the absolute completeness and accuracy of the information given. If only because of their conciseness and the fact that they concentrate on the bare essentials, the tables can be no substitute for consultation of the national legal sources themselves, supplemented where appropriate by professional advice from authorised persons. Furthermore, it cannot be stated with any certainty that the legal provisions summarised in the tables will not have changed by the time this booklet appears. It is therefore advisable always to refer back to the official publications of the participating Member States so as to keep up to date with the development of national legislation and official practice.