Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court
If you are holding or applying for patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO), you should ensure that you are well-informed about a major change to European patent law which is expected to come into being in mid 2023. The anticipated introduction of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and Unitary Patent (UP) is expected to offer opportunities to reduce costs, extend territorial scope of protection, speed up litigation and increase legal certainty across a part of Europe.
Protection in any of the 39 countries that are members of the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the 6 validation and extension countries will still be obtainable through filing a single patent application at the European Patent Office.
A Unitary Patent will be a single patent covering all participating countries. It will be possible to obtain a Unitary Patent based on any European Patent granted by the EPO after the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA) comes into force. It will still be possible to secure patent protection by the traditional validation route for those countries not participating in the Unitary Patent or, for participating countries, as an alternative to the Unitary Patent.
The Unified Patent Court will be a court with sole jurisdiction over Unitary Patents. During a transitional period of at least 7 years, the UPC will also have non-exclusive jurisdiction for all national validations of European Patents for the participating countries, including European Patents granted before the agreement comes into effect. Rights holders will, however, have the option to remove national validations of European Patents from the jurisdiction of the UPC by proactively filing an “opt out” for the European Patent during the transitional period. Once the transitional period has ended, the UPC’s jurisdiction will become exclusive for all national validations in participating countries for European Patents which have not been opted out.
The introduction of the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court will affect all holders of existing European Patents. It will also affect applicants for European Patents that have not yet been granted. All European Patent holders and applicants will need to consider how to take advantage of the opportunities and protect themselves against the threats arising from these changes.
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