European Unitary Patent: A Quick Primer

The European Unitary Patent has been a long time coming (depending on who you ask)! In any case, the process to get us where we are today has been a lenghty one. The reality of a European Union-centric patent may seem obvious to outsiders, following the economic ties generated by the creation of the EU, but the unitary patent has long been a subject of contention.

The European Patent Convention (EPC) of 1973 is the origin of the current “EP” patent administered by the European Patent Office. This patent provides protection in the member states (and extension states) party to the EPC.

The new unitary patent will live alongside the traditional “EP” patent as an option, according to the European Patent Office:

A unitary patent will be a European patent granted by the EPO under the provisions of the European Patent Convention to which unitary effect for the territory of the 25 participating states is given after grant, at the patentee’s request. The unitary patent will thus not affect the EPO’s day-to-day search, examination and granting work.

This was agreed to on December 11th, 2012, by the European Parliament, with the exception of Italy, Spain, and Poland to varying degrees. The enforcement date for the unitary patent has yet to be decided, but it will be be January 1st, 2014 at the earliest.

The first steps since this agreement have already taken place. The Unified Patent Court Agreement was signed on February 19th, 2013 according to the EPO:

The Agreement on the Unified Patent Court will lead to the creation of a specialised patent court with a first and an appeal instance competent for litigation relating to patents granted by the EPO under the provisions of the European Patent Convention, e.g. classical European Patents as well as future Unitary Patents.

It will be interesting to see the patent strategy developed and employed to account for the co-existence of the current “EP” patent and the new unitary patent. Peter Dehlinger of King & Spalding LLP believes it will be a balancing act:

In short, EP patentees will soon have an opportunity to test pan-European patent protection, weighed against the risk of pan-European patent revocation.

What are your thoughts about the forthcoming unitary patent? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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