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A Unitary Patent can only be obtained by filing an application at the European Patent Office (EPO) as normal. The usual EPO filing, examination and opposition procedure will apply.
It will not be necessary to indicate that unitary protection is required on filing. If unitary protection is required this may be requested within one month of grant. By the same one-month deadline it will initially also be necessary to file one translation of the complete patent. Where the patent is in English the patentee may choose any other EU language for the translation. This translation could be a translation prepared for use in a non-participating country (e.g. a Spanish translation). Where the patent is not in English the translation must be into English. The translation will be for information purposes only (but it should not be a machine translation).
New alternative option
The translation requirement is actually a transitional arrangement which will lapse 12 years from commencement. It may lapse earlier if it is considered that high quality machine translations are available for all EU official languages.
Unitary Patent protection may be requested for any patent application (including those pending at commencement of the UPCA) which designates all of the EU countries which ratify the UPCA and which has the same claims for all countries. As almost all EPO applications designate all EPC countries (and have a single set of claims) this means that Unitary Patent protection will be an option at least in principle for almost all pending applications. However in order to be eligible for a Unitary Patent, applications will require a filing date of 1 March 2007 or later, this being the date when the last participating country, Malta, joined the EPC.