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April 23, 2014

Pros and Cons of the Forthcoming Unitary Patent

Unitary patent system will make it possible to protect inventions in 25 European countries through a single patent. Peggy Bengtsson, European Patent Attorney at Zacco, explains the benefits and risks of the new patent system.

What is unitary patent?
It is a patent valid in all EU countries except Italy and Spain. It will serve as a supplement to the existing European patent system.

When will it be introduced?
Germany, England, France, and at least ten more countries must ratify the unitary patent agreement before it can take effect. A reasonable guess is that it will happen at the end of 2015 but in all probability not until 2016.

What are the main benefits of unitary patent compared to a common European patent?
The patent does not have to be validated in each country, and thus translation and administrative costs are reduced. However, the big difference is the court. If someone is infringing your patent, you can get a preliminary injunction in 25 countries at once which is very effective and powerful. Short deadlines and fast handling will provide effective judicial proceedings.

Are there any drawbacks?
The power of the court can also be a disadvantage – patent holders can get their patent nullified in 25 countries through a single process. There is also concern that short deadlines will make it difficult for small and medium sized counterparts to gather enough material to be able to initiate a revocation when accused of patent infringement.

Moreover, it will be difficult to verify that you do not infringe on other patents. When you can get a patent in 25 countries at once, there will be many more valid patents in many countries, especially in smaller countries like Denmark and Sweden.

What do I need to consider when choosing between a unitary patent and an ordinary European patent?
The unitary patent will be cheaper, especially if you want protection in many European countries. But for important patents, it may be a better tactic not to choose unitary patent in order to avoid putting a whole European patent family in the same court process.

What is the cost of a unitary patent compared to an ordinary European patent?
Unfortunately, the cost has not yet been decided upon. Neither court fees nor renewal fees are set but should be established during 2014.

When should I start thinking about the unitary patent system?
Immediately, as it will partly affect European patents that have already been granted in the member states. Furthermore, it takes time for a patent to be granted – the unitary patent system may be in force when your European patent application is granted.

Read more about the unitary patent system in Zacco’s whitepaper.


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