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24.01.2024 | KPMG Law Insights

How the new unitary patent works – ten facts

The new unitary patent can be applied for at the European Patent Office (EPO) from June 1, 2023. The Implementing Regulations and the Schedule of Fees for Unitary Patent Protection entered into force on this date. The Unitary Patent complements the existing European patent granting system and offers a cost-effective option for patent protection in Europe. Especially at the turn of the year, it is a good idea to review your current registration strategy and adjust it if necessary.

But how does the unitary patent work? Here are ten facts:

1. the unitary patent applies in 17 EU member states

A unitary patent is a European patent that is valid in the following 17 EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden.

2. there are no high costs

The application to the European Patent Office (EPO) is free of charge, i.e. there are no application, examination or registration fees to pay, and the renewal fees for maintaining a Unitary Patent are very attractive and business-friendly.

3. the patent offers uniform protection in the participating countries

A unitary patent offers uniform protection in the participating EU member states. The rights under the unitary patent and their limitations as well as the available legal remedies are identical for all participating states.

4. the already granted European patent is the basis

The unitary patent is based on a European patent. Once the European patent has been granted by the EPO, unitary effect can be requested for the participating EU member states. The existing options for patent protection in Europe will not be replaced, but the unitary patent will provide an additional option alongside national and traditional European patents.

5. the EPO is the central point of contact

As the central contact point, the EPO examines the requests for unitary effect submitted by patent proprietors and enters unitary patents in the new register for unitary patent protection if the requirements are met.

6. only one application is required

Owners of a European patent can, instead of validating a European patent in several countries, file a request for unitary effect and obtain a unitary patent that confers uniform protection in the participating EU Member States.

7. the EPO grants the Unitary Patent with effect for all participating countries

A Unitary Patent is a European patent that is granted by the EPO in accordance with the provisions and procedures of the European Patent Convention (EPC) and has unitary effect in the EU Member States participating in the Unitary Patent system at the request of the patent proprietor.

8. the EPO keeps a new register

The EPO maintains a new register for unitary patent protection. This includes data on the legal status of unitary patents such as information on licenses, transfers of rights, restrictions, revocation and expiry. The data is entered centrally at the EPO. Previously, patent proprietors had to report the data to the national patent registers of the individual countries using numerous parallel procedures.

9 The annual fee must be paid to the EPO

The renewal fees for Unitary Patents are payable to the EPO. A significant advantage for patent proprietors is that they no longer have to pay national renewal fees in different currencies to several national patent offices, each of which applies its own legal requirements regarding time limits, exchange rates, payment methods and representation.

10. combination of unitary patent and European patent is possible

A unitary patent can also be combined with a classic European patent. For example, it is possible to register a European patent as a Unitary Patent and to have the European patent additionally validated in other EPC contracting states that are not covered by the Unitary Patent.

On the other hand, it is not possible to protect an invention twice by means of a unitary patent and a classic European patent in the countries covered by the unitary patent.

 

The Unitary Patent offers many practical and financial advantages over the validation of the European patent in all member states. Patent proprietors should consider applying for unitary patents if they want EU-wide protection for their patents.

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