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How to obtain a Unitary Patent

A Unitary Patent (UP) may be elected following grant of a European Patent by the European Patent Office (EPO), by filing of a request for unitary effect. The pre-grant procedure is the same irrespective of whether a UP is ultimately to be obtained, and involves filing at and examination by the EPO, as usual.

A request for unitary effect must be made within one month of grant. By the same one-month deadline it is also 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).

Unitary Patent protection may be requested for any patent which designates all of the countries in which have indicated that they will take part in the Unitary Patent system 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.