The Unitary Patent System

The unitary patent system is a complement to the national patent systems and the European system. Read below to find out how it works. Please note the that unitary patent system has not yet gone into effect.

Once the system is established, a European patent application that is received and granted by the European Patent Office will result either in a European patent in its current form, or in a patent with unitary effect. You, as the applicant, will decide which you wish to have. A patent with unitary effect means that the patent will provide identical protection and the same legal effect in all participating Member States.

The purpose of the unitary patent system is to create an alternative that is compatible with, and at the same time simplifies, the present system. It will be easier to apply for patents, and to defend or challenge a patent across a large market. To be restrict, assign, void or terminate a patent, this must be done in all the participating Member States simultaneously. On the other hand, it will be possible to grant licences for the use of a patent in only one or more of the Member States. The European Patent Office (EPO) will register this information in a separate database.

The unitary patent system makes it possible to choose the patent that is most suitable for your invention. You will be able to choose between national patents, the current European patent and a unitary patent.

Requests for a unitary patent must be submitted to the EPO

A European patent application that is submitted to and granted by the EPO will result either in a European patent in its current form, or a patent with unitary effect. You, as the applicant, will decide which you wish to have. In order to be a unitary patent, a patent must be granted on the basis of the same patent claims for all participating Member States, and all countries must be designated. The request that the patent should have unitary effects must be submitted to the EPO in the same languages as the patent application submitted to the EPO. This must take place within one month from the publication of the patent notice in the EPO bulletin. Requesting a unitary patent is free of charge. If the patent is communicated in English, the patent specification must be translated to an additional EU language. If the processing language at the EPO is German or French, a translation into English must be submitted. The requirement of translation shall remain in effect during a transitional period of between six and twelve years. Although the translations have no legal force, they serve as information.

The participating Member States are Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, and Austria. Poland participates in this collaboration, but not in the court system, and consequently, the unitary patent does not apply there.

Requirement to have an attorney before the court

If you wish to have your matter adjudicated before a court, you are required to retain an attorney for this purpose. These attorneys must be legally trained and be entitled to engage in litigation before a national court of a Member State, or be a European Patent Attorney entitled to represent a party before the EPO.

The costs of a unitary patent consists of:

  • A translation fee
  • Annual fees
  • Litigation costs, if applicable

Translation fees and annual fees are to be paid fully and exclusively to the EPO.

Additional information can be obtained from the EPO.

Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (external website)