Unitary Patents will make it possible to get patent protection in up to 25 EU Member States by submitting a single request to the EPO. They will build on European patents granted by the EPO under the rules of the European Patent Convention (EPC), so nothing will change in the pre-grant phase and the same high standards of quality search and examination will apply. After a European patent is granted, the patent proprietor will be able to request unitary effect, thereby getting a Unitary Patent which provides uniform patent protection in up to 25 EU Member States.
Coverage of European patents and those with unitary effect
- Member states of the EPO (38)
- States in enhanced co-operation (25)
- Current Unitary Patent states (17)
The 25 states participating in enhanced cooperation to bring about the Unitary Patent system are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.
The 17 states in enhanced cooperation which already ratified the Agreements and will participate in the Unitary Patent when it starts are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden.
Reducing complexity and lowering costs
Today, an inventor can protect an invention in Europe via a national patent or a European patent. The EPO examines applications for European patents centrally, saving inventors the costs of parallel applications, while ensuring a high quality of granted patents.
However, granted European patents must be validated and maintained individually in each country where they take effect. This can be a complex and potentially very costly process: validation requirements differ between countries and can lead to high direct and indirect costs, including translation costs, validation fees (i.e. fees due in some member states for publication of the translations) and associated representation costs, such as the attorney fees charged for the administration of the patent (i.e. payment of national renewal fees). These costs can be considerable and depend on the number of countries where the patent proprietor wishes to validate the European patent.
Unitary Patents will remove the need for complex and costly national validation procedures.
- The EPO acts as a one-stop-shop, allowing for a simple registration of a Unitary Patent.
- No fees are due for the filing and examination of the request for unitary effect or for registration of a Unitary Patent.
- No post-grant translations will be required after a six-year transitional period. During this period, a translation will be required for information only and will not have any legal effect.
- For EU-based SMEs, natural persons, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations a new compensation scheme will cover costs related to the translation of the patent application if it was filed in an official EU language other than English, French or German. They will be paid a lump sum of EUR 500 when their Unitary Patent is registered.
- Unitary Patents will also not be subject to the currently fragmented renewal fee system: there will be only one procedure, currency and deadline and no obligation to use a representative.
- The renewal fees have been set at a very competitive level and are particularly attractive for the first ten years, the average lifetime of a European patent. But applicants will also save on indirect costs. The more countries in which the European patent would have been validated, the greater the savings.
- All post-grant administration will be handled centrally by the EPO, further reducing costs and the administrative workload.
- The online register will include legal status information relating to Unitary Patents – notably on licences and transfers. This will also help to foster technology transfer and investment in innovation.
- Unitary Patents will confer truly uniform protection since the substantive patent law governing the scope and any limitations of the rights and the remedies available in cases of infringement has been harmonised in the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court.