The Unitary Patent
A Unitary Patent may be obtained from any European Patent Office (EPO) application that has a filing date of 1 March 2007 or later. Following grant of a European Patent based on such an application, it is possible to request that the patent have unitary effect for all countries available as part of the Unitary Patent system. Electing for a Unitary Patent (UP) gives rise to a single patent covering all relevant countries.
A Unitary Patent is subject to payment of a single annual renewal fee, payable to the EPO, and is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the UPC. An action for infringement of a UP can only be brought before the Unified Patent Court. Similarly, an action for revocation of a UP can only be brought before the UPC, throughout the life time of the UP.
Separately, for countries not available as part of the Unitary Patent system, national validations can be obtained post-grant for any countries of interest, resulting in individual national patents for each country. National validations also remain available for countries participating in the Unitary Patent system, if it is not desired to obtain a UP. For a participating country, it is not though possible to both elect a UP and secure a national validation. It is also not possible to subsequently convert a UP into individual patents for one or more of the relevant countries.
Accordingly, the post-grant procedure at the EPO involves obtaining a UP and/or one or more national validations. It is important to note that the pre-grant application procedure at the European Patent Office is the same irrespective of which option(s) are taken post-grant. The usual EPO filing, examination and opposition procedures thus apply. It is not necessary to indicate on filing that a UP is desired, as this decision is only required post-grant.