On 17th November 2022, IURIS participated in the EPO Conference: “The Unitary Patent System: A game changer for innovation in Europe” organized to mark the important milestone of completing the EU’s single market for innovation through the soon coming into operation of the EU’s Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court in April 2023.
This Unitary Patent System is aimed to boost research and development (R&D) in IP-intensive goods and services, attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to the EU and scale up European innovative startups and SMEs.
The Conference presented high-level speakers from the European Patent Office (EPO), Member State representatives, Representatives from the European Commission and the European Parliament, academics, business associations, innovative SMEs, professional representatives as well as a panel of judges newly appointed to the Unified Patent Court.
The Unitary Patent System will supplement the European patent granting scheme making it more cost effective with a simplified procedure and a European court that will deal with both infringements and validity of Unitary Patents and European Patents thereby putting an end to parallel litigation and enhancing legal certainty.
This system will initially cover the territory of the 17 Member States who have not only joined the enhanced cooperation in the creation of Unitary Patent protection but have also ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPCA). Germany remains the last country to ratify the UPCA out of the 17 Member States who will be the initial participatory members as of the 1st April 2023. The 17 Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden. Hopefully, all the 25 member states will in time ratify and join the UPCA for the full completion of the EU’s single market thereby putting the EU as a serious and competitive alternative to the US and Chinese Patent systems and markets.
The Unitary Patent
This is a ‘European patent with unitary effect’ granted in terms of the European Patent Convention, whereby the proprietor, after obtaining a European Patent, formally requests that unitary effect is given for the territory of the EU Member States participating in the Unitary Patent system that have ratified the UPCA. The Uniform protection granted means that the scope of the right conferred by the Unitary Patent and its limitations are the same for all the participating states, as are the available legal remedies.
Today, an invention in Europe can only be protected either through the national system or through a European Patent which once granted, must be validated and maintained individually in each country where it is to take effect. This is a complex and very costly procedure, which varies in all the member states.
Hence, after 1st April 2023, a Unitary Patent will do away with this process of national validation as the Unitary Patent will have equal protection in all the participatory member states in a more simplified and cost-effective way.
The Unified Patent Court
The Unified Patent Court will consist of:
- a Court of First Instance which will be composed of a central division based in Paris and a section in Munich and several local and regional divisions.
- a Court of Appeal which will be located in Luxembourg
- a Registry located in Luxembourg with sub-registries in each local division
Patent litigation in Europe will be streamlined and more cost effective with the introduction of the UPC as there will not be the need of parallel litigation in different member states. Divergent decisions will cease as the UPC will develop European case law on patents thereby enhancing legal certainty to the whole of the EU patent system, which will also offer better enforcement with the wide effect of its decisions, injunctions and damages.