Introduction to the Unified Patent Court and Unitary Patent

A new European patent system – namely, a European patent with unitary effect (Unitary Patent) and a single patent enforcement system (Unified Patent Court) with divisions located throughout Europe – could start by the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023.

Unitary Patent

The current European patent is granted by the EPO. After grant, the European patent is subjected to national validation and proceeds into one or more individual national patent rights. Each of the national patents is then renewed, invalidated, and enforced individually before its national offices/courts.

In contrast, the new Unitary Patent (also granted by the EPO) will provide a single, uniform patent that covers all participating EU Countries without having to go through national validation processes and that further limits translation requirements. The Unitary Patent can be renewed by the payment of a single fee, and can be centrally enforced and invalidated at a single court (the UPC).

The Unitary Patent system will make it possible to obtain patent protection in all the participating EU Countries by submitting a single request to the EPO, thereby making the process simpler and more cost effective for users (depending on the number of countries in which the EP patent is validated/enforced).

For more information, such as, participating EU countries, and related costs, please see Coverage, Costs.

Unified Patent Court

As mentioned above, currently, jurisdiction to decide on infringement and validity of a European patent lies with each competent national court of the respective validated EPC countries. This can lead to forum shopping, multiple and expensive litigation efforts with possible diverging decisions from national courts.  

The UPC, a single court with jurisdiction over all participating member countries, deals with infringement and validity of both Unitary Patents and classical European patents (if not opted-out), thereby addressing the above potential shortcomings and aiming to improve legal certainty.