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The New European Unitary Patent

By May 25, 2023January 11th, 2024International IP, IP Insights, Patent

A Simpler, More Cost-effective European Patent Solution

A new type of European Patent has been introduced. It is called the Unitary Patent.

Starting 1 June 2023, The European Unitary Patent presents an alternative mechanism for entering many European countries. It has several advantages, particularly in respect to costs, as it is comparatively cheaper. Applicants who baulked at seeking patent protection in Europe may now wish to proceed.

However, the European Unitary Patent also has disadvantages, and the decision to proceed with this alternate mechanism will depend on each applicant’s circumstances.

The Unitary Patent is an alternative to the current validation procedure where you would select which countries to validate in and each national validation would be handled as a separate patent.  Instead, the Unitary Patent makes it possible to get patent protection in up to 25 EU Member States by submitting a single request to the EPO.

The countries that the Unitary Patent covers 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, and Sweden.

Please note: that some countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, and Switzerland are NOT part of the coverage of the Unitary Patent. However, these countries can still be covered by using the current validation procedures.

Key Benefits Of The European Unitary Patent

1) SIMPLE – Rather than going through validation for each country individually, the Unitary Patent can be obtained by filing a single request.

Also, there will only be a single renewal for the whole of the Unitary Patent rather than separate renewals for each validation country individually.

2) CHEAPER – By centralising the administration of the patent, the Unitary Patent can be less expensive. In particular, costs are lower because:

  • there is no official fee for requesting a Unitary Patent;
  • the only mandatory post-grant translation is a translation of the full specification into one other language;
  • the official renewal fees have been set at a very competitive level and are particularly attractive for the first ten years; and
  • a 15% reduction in the official renewal fees may be available if the patent owner is willing to make their patent available for licensing.

Risks And Considerations

1) ALL-OR-NOTHING – Changes made to the Unitary Patent will be effective for every country the Unitary Patent covers. This means that if a conflict in one country results in revocation, the Unitary Patent is revoked for all countries. This also includes any limitations to the claims. It is also not possible to let the Unitary Patent lapse in some countries while keeping it active in others.

This is different to validation where once the validation is complete the patent can be treated separately in each country. For example, if the German patent is revoked, the French patent will remain unaffected.

2) TEETHING TROUBLES – As the Unitary Patent is a new system, there are bound to be some administrative and/or technical issues which may result in frustration.

We believe the Eurpoean Unitary Patent will provide new opportunities for innovators that were unable to previously manage the costs or complexity of filing in multiple individual European countries.

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