If your application is approved by the EPO, the European patent will either have to be validated in Sweden or be given unitary effect, in order to apply here. The unitary patent system only applies to EU member states and provides a uniform regional protection in the participating countries. Here is how the system works.
Please note that the unitary patent system will not enter into force until June 1, of 2023.
Once the system enters into force, a European patent application granted by the EPO will either end up as one or more validated patents, just like today, or turn into a single patent with unitary effect.
It will be up to the patent holder to decide whether a granted European patent is to result in a “bundle” of validated patents or in one patent with unitary effect. “Unitary effect” means that the patent provides uniform protection with equal legal consequences in all participating countries.
A unitary patent could be both easy and cost-effective to manage in a larger market. It allows you to avoid the inconvenience and expenses of validating the patent in each individual country, and instead obtain a regional patent. This kind of patent can subsequently only be limited, transferred, revoked or lapse simultaneously throughout the entire region.
The unitary patent system will not replace any previous routes to obtaining a patent; it merely constitutes an additional option.
Not all EU countries participate in the Unitary patent system. Initially, a unitary patent will cover 17 countries. More countries will gradually be included, but a few EU member states have opted not participate in the system at all. If you request unitary effect for your European patent, you will still have the option of validating it in the remaining EPC countries.
A request for unitary effect is filed with the EPO
The European Patent Office will handle all administration relating to unitary patents. A request for unitary effect must be filed with the EPO within one month of the grant being mentioned in the European Patent Bulletin.
There is no additional fee for the request per se; however, if the patent was granted in English the patent document will, for the time being, need to be translated into one other of the official EPO languages. Where the language of proceedings before the EPO was German or French, a translation into English will be required.
In addition to the costs pertaining to the application phase, the costs associated with the unitary patent consist of:
- Translation fee
- Renewal fees
- Legal expenses, if applicable
The translation fee and renewal fees are paid in their entirety to the EPO.
If your European application is rejected, all fees associated with the application phase are forfeited, regardless of whether you intended to validate your patent or request unitary effect. You can minimise the risk of this by starting with a Swedish application to the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV).
Unitary patents are challenged and defended in one and the same court, the Unified Patent Court (UPC). A regional division of the court will be located in Stockholm.
The court will have jurisdiction over patents with unitary effect as well as validated patents and supplementary protection certificates based on European patents, including those granted before the entry into force of the unitary patent system. During a transitional period, however, validated patents can be exempted (so-called opt-out) so as to be processed as before (i.e. in Sweden, by the Patent and Market Court).
Supplementary protection certificates for unitary patents
There are no fixed plans to introduce unitary supplementary protection certificates (SPCs). Hence, an application for supplementary protection based on a patent with unitary effect should be filed directly with the national patent authorities. Consequently, the unitary patent will be divided into a number of national supplementary protection rights after the expiry of the basic patent.
For further information, consult the EPO.
Frequently asked questions about the unitary patent
Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (external website)
Unitary Patent Guide (external website)