November 11, 2022, by Nexus Law, PLLC
EUROPE'S NEW UNITARY PATENT SYSTEM (UPS) AND UNITARY PATENT COURT (UPC)
The European Union is expected by April 2023 to adopt a new Unitary Patent System, by which a single unitary patent covering 25 European countries (the member states) can be obtained. Along with the UPS, a new Unitary Patent Court is being formed to enforce those patents throughout the member states. The Europe's unitary patent differs from the current European Patent Office (EPO) application process, which can be used to file a single EPO patent application, and, upon grant, can then be validated as separate patents in one or more selected European countries. The unitary patent will be a single issued patent that is enforceable throughout all of the member states participating in the UPS. The unitary patent will undergo a single examination process, issue as a single patent, require payment of a single annuity fee each year to keep the patent in force rather than the separate fees paid to each country under the current system, and be enforced throughout the member states by a single court system, specifically the UPC.
Once the UPS goes into effect, it will exist for a number of years in parallel with the current EPO system of national patents. During this transitional period, which is expected to last for at least 7 years, applicants of newly-filed or pending applications or newly-granted patents will have an option to request a "unitary effect" to receive a unitary patent.
Unified procedures, enforcement and associated unified costs are perceived to be among the principal benefits of the UPS. Reduced translation requirements and a single annual maintenance fee or "annuity" are aimed to reduce overall costs, as long as the applicant desires to receive protection on average in more than four European member states. Having obtained the unitary patent, however, it will not be possible to drop coverage in selected countries and thus reduce the annuity fees, i.e., the entire unitary patent must be either maintained or abandoned.
The UPC is being established to address issues involving unitary patents. The UPC will have exclusive jurisdiction to handle infringement and revocation proceedings involving unitary patents, as well as to address decisions of the EPO regarding unitary patents. It is worth noting that during the transitional period, the UPC will also have non-exclusive jurisdiction regarding European national patents that do not have unitary effect.
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