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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The unitary patent system was successfully launched on 1 June. This significant milestone was commemorated through a series of events held in Luxembourg (the seat of the Court of Appeal of the UPC), Munich (the headquarters of the EPO), and Paris (the seat of the Court of First Instance of the UPC).

The unitary patent is a legal title that provides uniform protection across all participating countries on a one-stop-shop basis, providing huge cost advantages and reducing administrative burdens. The Unified Patent Court offers a single, specialised patent jurisdiction.

The benefits of unitary patent protection for Europe

Unitary patent protection makes the existing European patent system simpler and less expensive for inventors (individuals, companies, and research organisations). It ends complex validation requirements and drastically limits expensive translation requirements in participating countries. Consequently, it aims to stimulate research, development and investment in innovation, helping to boost growth in the EU.

Unitary patent protection also protects inventions better than the current system. Due to the prohibitive costs involved in the national validation and maintenance of European patents, many inventors currently only patent their inventions in a handful of countries. This makes inventions less valuable as the lack of protection in other countries makes copying them easier.

Unitary patent protection and the Unified Patent Court

In 2012, EU countries and the European Parliament agreed on the ‘patent package’ – a legislative initiative consisting of 2 regulations and an international agreement that lay the ground for the creation of unitary patent protection in the EU.

The package consists of

  • a regulation creating a European patent with unitary effect ('unitary patent')
  • a regulation establishing a language regime applicable to the unitary patent
  • an agreement between EU countries to set up a single and specialised patent jurisdiction (the 'Unified Patent Court')

The regulations implement enhanced cooperation in the creation of unitary patent protection. All EU countries participate in this enhanced cooperation except for Spain and Croatia. In 2015, Italy joined the enhanced cooperation on unitary patent protection, which includes 25 EU countries as of May 2023.

Following the adoption of the 2 Regulations in 2012, the contracting countries, except for Poland but with the addition of Italy, proceeded with the signature of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPCA). As of May 2023, 17 EU countries have ratified the UPCA, and all legal requirements are met for that agreement – and indeed for the whole unitary patent system – to enter into force/operation on 1 June 2023. The unified jurisdiction deals with disputes relating to classical European and unitary patents, for which it has exclusive jurisdiction in these countries.