Are there any reductions for small entities, such as SMEs, start-ups and universities?

Yes, a compensation scheme is in place to cover the costs of translating the application in the pregrant phase for individuals (natural persons), SMEs, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations, on the condition that they have their residence or principal place of business in an EU member state. To be eligible for compensation, the natural person, SME, non-profit organisation, university or public research organisation must have filed the European patent application or Euro-PCT application leading to the Unitary Patent in an official EU language other than English, French or German and, as mentioned, must have their residence or principal place of business in an EU member state. 

However, compensation is granted only if expressly requested by the patent proprietor. The request for compensation must be filed together with the request for unitary effect. It must contain a declaration that the proprietor is either a natural person, an SME, a non-profit organisation, a university or a public research organisation. The compensation – set at EUR 500 – complements the reduction in filing and examination fees already available when a European patent application and request for examination are filed in a language of an EPC contracting state other than English, French or German (Rule 7a(1)). For further details, please see the Unitary Patent Guide

Unitary Patent proprietors who file a statement to the effect that they are prepared to allow any person to use their invention (licence of right) will additionally benefit from a 15% reduction in renewal fees which fall due after receipt of their statement.  

Besides the reductions and attractive level of renewal fees, the Unitary Patent system offers a range of other benefits for applicants with limited resources, such as SMEs, start-ups and universities. Before the Unitary Patent was introduced, many small entities tended to rely on national patents. As a result, they often ended up with no effective protection of their inventions in Europe at all or with protection only in a very small number of countries. The Unitary Patent system dismantles the bureaucratic and financial hurdles these small entities face in entering the EU market with their invention. A Unitary Patent offers broad and uniform territorial protection together with a business-friendly level of renewal fees. It eliminates the need to comply with validation requirements in each of the participating Member States and the high costs associated with this. These costs can be considerable, especially where a European patent is validated in several participating Member States, and typically include not only translation costs incurred for validations and the publication fees payable to the various national patent offices, but also the fees charged by local attorneys or other service providers. By contrast, there is no need to retain different local attorneys, agents or specialised service providers for a Unitary Patent. On the cost benefits of the Unitary Patent, see also "What does it cost?" and the EPO website.  

Moreover, the proprietor of a conventional European patent may have to litigate in parallel in all countries where it is validated. Such multi-forum litigation is expensive and complex and can give rise to legal uncertainty. As a court common to the participating Member States, the Unified Patent Court centralises the litigation for both Unitary Patents and conventional European patents, which not only reduces the associated costs for the parties but also facilitates the development of consistent case law and so ensures greater legal certainty. For more information on the benefits for small entities in terms of the costs incurred before the UPC, please refer to its website.