The Unitary patent (sometimes referred to as “EU patent”) is a new intellectual property right, operational as of 1 June 2023.
The Unitary patent will in due course confer upon a European patent a unitary effect with validity in most of the member states of the European Union (namely, all member states of the EU except Croatia, Poland and Spain).
The Unitary patent falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of a single centralised court, the Unified Patent Court, unless patent owners take action to “opt out” of the court’s jurisdiction.
In order to obtain a Unitary patent it is necessary to follow, from the filing stage up to the grant stage, the normal procedure for obtaining a European patent, but with no need to designate the states in which patent protection is sought: a Unitary patent is valid in all participating member states (see below).
It will be possible to request unitary effect for the European patent within one month from its grant.
A Unitary patent has effect in the member states of the Enhanced cooperation on the Unitary patent that have also ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. Currently, such countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden.
Disputes concerning a Unitary patent fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Unified Patent Court, with two sections of its central division already operative in Munich and in Paris, and a third section of the central division in Milan that is to become operative by June 2024 (based on the Decision of 26 June 2023 of the court’s Administrative Committee). In addition, the court has local divisions in several participating states. The Italian local division of the court is also in Milan.
During a 7-year period after 1 June 2023, the opening date of the Unified Patent Court, owners of European patents or European patent applications may file a request to opt out of the jurisdiction of the Unified Patent Court, provided no proceedings are pending before the court in relation to the relevant patent.
After grant, an annual fee will be required for maintenance, to be paid in advance to the European Patent Office.
Licensing and assignment
Licensing and assignment of a Unitary patent is allowed for all member states of the Enhanced cooperation on the Unitary patent; licensing limited to individual states or regions is also possible. Unitary patents will also be the object of rights of security.
Applicable International Agreements
The Paris Convention, the European Patent Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Budapest Treaty and the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court.
Questions on the Unitary patent and on patent protection in Europe? Contact us, we’ll be happy to help.
Information – Unified Patent Court hub