The Unitary Patent is a new patent, obtained from a granted European patent, which provides a single patent right covering many European Union countries. It is an alternative to the current system of having to “validate” a European patent in individual countries.
The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is a new supranational court in which cases relating to Unitary Patents (and some existing European patents) are to be heard. A judgment from the UPC will be enforceable across all of the EU countries that have signed up to the new system.
A Unitary Patent provides patent holders with pan-EU patent protection in a simpler and cheaper way than the current system of obtaining a bundle of national patents, following grant of a European patent.
The UPC allows a single patent court action to be brought in multiple EU countries at once, rather than having to take action in these countries separately. Again, this is likely to be simpler and cheaper, as well as being quicker.
The UPC opens for business on 1 June 2023. From this date, Unitary Patents can be obtained from European patents granted after 1 June 2023 and actions, such as infringement and revocation, can be brought at the UPC.
From 1 March 2023, there is a sunrise period, during which existing European patents (the bundles of national patents) can be opted out of the UPC, to prevent these patents falling under the UPC’s jurisdiction.
To start with, 17 EU countries have signed up to the new system. A Unitary Patent will provide patent protection in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden. It is in these countries that UPC judgments will be enforceable.
Central Divisions of the UPC are in Paris and Munich, with Local and Regional Divisions based in multiple other EU countries. The Court of Appeal is in Luxembourg.
Any patent applicant or owner can obtain a Unitary Patent, from European patents granted after 1 June 2023.
Any interested party can bring an action at the UPC.
Existing European patent applicants and owners need to be thinking about whether to opt-out their existing European patents and applications.
European Patent Attorneys at Dehns can represent clients before the UPC and handle other tasks such as opt-outs.
Unitary Patents are obtained by filing a request for unitary effect at the European Patent Office.
UPC actions are lodged with the relevant Division of the UPC, or with the UPC Registry for appeals.
Opt-out requests are made with the UPC Registry.
For more information, please contact any of the team here at Dehns.