The European patent system will shortly go through one of its biggest changes since the introduction of a European patent in the 1970s. The Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC) are expected to be introduced no sooner than late 2022 or early 2023.

As European Patent Attorneys, the GJE team can help you leverage the new rights offered by a Unitary Patent and navigate issues before the UPC.

New Patent Court, Same Attorneys

The existing regional patent system in Europe is the European patent, granted under the European Patent Convention (EPC). Each European patent is a bundle of national patents that is granted following a central application procedure at the European Patent Office (EPO). Currently, on grant of the application by the EPO, it is necessary to validate a patent separately in all of the member states of the EPC in which protection is wanted. This system will still be available once the Unitary Patent comes into effect.

The new Unitary Patent will operate in parallel with existing European patents and will share the same application process as the existing European patents at the EPO. However, in contrast to the traditional validation process the Unitary Patent will cover all participating EU member states (currently 17). Applicants will be able to request the creation of a Unitary Patent within one month of a European patent being granted. Therefore, applicants will be able to choose to have a Unitary Patent in the participating EU member states instead of validating separately in each state.

Once in force, a Unitary Patent will be enforced, invalidated and renewed as a single right through the UPC, a new pan-European court. This raises new benefits, risks and costs for patent proprietors.

In addition, the UPC will also have jurisdiction over both existing and future European patents in the participating EU countries unless the owners of these European patents opt out. This means by default the UPC will replace national courts as the competent forum for hearing revocation and infringement actions on European patents valid in the participating EU countries.

Decisions Needed, Assistance Available

The process of setting up the UPC and UP continues to gain momentum. This means that patent applicants and proprietors need to start considering whether to validate new European patents as Unitary Patents and whether to opt-out their existing European patents and patent applications from UPC jurisdiction.

There is still time for these decisions to be made, and GJE are ready to provide guidance. We are offering a tailored service to clients and others who would like advice on the Unitary Patent and the UPC opt-out. Should you be interested in this service or have other questions about the UPC and UP, please contact us here, at gje@gje.com or through your usual GJE contact.