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July 6, 2012

Agreement on Unitary patent means full speed ahead

Last week EU finally declared that they have solved the last important issue in regards to the implementation of a Unitary patent. The outstanding question was where the Unified Patent Court should be located and the decision is a compromise as the Central division will be based in Paris with supporting offices in London and Munich. Now, when the Unified Patent Court issue is solved EU can now focus fully on preparing for the introduction of the Unitary patent, something that will happen January 1, 2014, at the earliest. 

In short the Unitary patent will make it easier and less costly for companies to get patents granted in the 25 EU countries that participate (Spain and Italy have declined membership) than the previous systems with national, PCT and European patent applications. The dispute process is also simplified for these 25 countries due to the fact that in a dispute concerning a Unitary patent, the judgement will cover all the 25 countries/markets. A judgment relating to a European patent valid in some or all of the member states will also cover all relevant markets, but for the 13 EPC states outside the Unitary patent a judgementwill have to take place locally on the market  where the dispute exists.

It is important to remember that the new Unitary patent system will co-exist with the existing system of national, PCT and European patent applications. This means that it puts more pressure on companies as they need to understand the new patent system and making it even more important to have a well defined patent strategy including of what system to use when applying for a patent. 

Below we have shortly explained some of the differences between the existing European patent system and the new, Unitary patent, system. 

The main differences between a Unitary patent and the existing European patent is as follows:

Cost: The cost of a unitary patent will be lower than if one makes use of the European patent, because you do not need to translate the patent to the same extent

Validity: A Unitary patent is valid in all the 25 member states, while the European patent only in the countries (max 38) where translations have been submitted.

Legal Disputes: A Unitary patent and European patent in the 25 EU Member States, will be addressed in the new joint court system while the European patent in the other 13 countries that are part of the existing European  Patent Convention, continue to be contested in the court on the market or markets in which an infringement takes place.

At a loss in a patent dispute: In a dispute concerning a Unitary patent, the judgment will cover all the 25 countries/markets. A judgment relating to a European patent in the 13 EPC states outside the Unitary patent may only be used on the market in which the dispute occurred.   

Please contact any of our conultants if you want to know more about the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court.

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