Unitary Patents – or "European patents with unitary effect" – are European patents granted by the EPO under the rules and procedures of the EPC, to which, at the patent proprietor's request, unitary effect is given for the territory of up to 26 Member States participating in the Unitary Patent system and having ratified the UPC Agreement.
Unitary Patents will co-exist with national patents and “classic” European patents. Patent proprietors will in future be able to choose between various combinations of “classic” European patents and Unitary Patents, for example:
Under EU Regulation No 1257/2012 on the Unitary Patent system, the participating Member States have entrusted the EPO with the following tasks:
Decisions of the EPO regarding Unitary Patents will be taken by a new Unitary Patent Division set up under Article 143(2) EPC. Decisions of the Unitary Patent Division may be appealed to the Unified Patent Court.
A Unitary Patent may be requested for any European patent granted on or after the date of application of EU Regulations No 1257/2012 and 1260/2012, i.e. as of the date of entry into force of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court.
The long-term participation of the UK in the Unitary Patent system is legally possible. However, this is a political decision to be taken by the EU, its remaining Member States and the UK.
Should the UK’s withdrawal from the EU become legally effective, EU Regulations No 1257/2012 and 1260/2012 creating the Unitary Patent system will cease to apply there. This will not, however, lead to a loss of patent protection in the UK for Unitary Patent proprietors. Appropriate solutions are likely to be put in place to avoid this happening. The protection of acquired rights and the preservation of legal certainty are general principles of law respected throughout Europe.