Upcoming Reforms in European Patenting System That Innovators Should Know About

Getting a patent that has a unitary effect across the European Union (EU) can be tiresome and time consuming. This is because the patent seeker has to approach every Member Country separately for each aspect of the patenting process.

To simplify the existing process, the patenting system in Europe is undergoing a reform. It seeks to address these issues by introducing Unitary Patent Protection (UPP) and establishing a unified patent jurisdiction under a Unified Patent Court (UPC). This change will lead to a cost-effective patent protection system and an expedited dispute settlement method. Moreover, the chances of gaining a unitary patent by new patent seekers are also bound to increase.

It is important to note that the upcoming changes will be an addition to the existing system and it will still be possible to take the traditional route to patenting and validation. Innovators will now have a choice!  Refer to the Figure 1 for clarity.

European Patents
Figure 1:  The different routes of patent grant for an innovator once the current reforms are into practice.

This article is a short overview of the EEPS documentation on the UPC website. For more details and current information, please refer to their website.

Unitary Patent Protection (UPP)

Under Unitary Patent Protection (UPP), the innovators can gain a European patent with unitary effect in 25 EU Member States with just a single request. The unitary effect implies that the patent will have uniform protection as well as an equal effect in all the participating Member States. For this, the innovator has to file a request after a European patent has been granted.

The new system does away with validation costs and requires a single renewal fee for all the participating Member Countries. This is a stark contrast to the present system, where they have to request each state for validation independently and pay renewal fee to each Member Country.

Formal Requirements to gain UPP

The innovator should gain a European patent with the same set of claims for all the participating members to attain UPP. Then, the request should be filed at the EPO within one month of the patent grant.

The language for it would be the same as it was for the earlier proceedings. Moreover, a patent translation into one additional language during the transitional period of 6 to 12 years has to be filed by the patent holder.

Geographical coverage of UPP

UPP will be effective in all the Participating Member states and eventually cover all the EU Member States.

For a particular patent, UPP will be effective for the Contracting Member States that have ratified the UPC Agreement at the date of its registration for the unitary effect.

Single renewal fee

The unitary patent holder will need to pay only one annual renewal fee at the European Patent Office (EPO). The Select Committee would determine the fees by considering the size of the enterprise, the size of the market to be covered, the renewal rate of EU patents, and others.

The Unified Patent Court (UPC)

In February 2013, 25 EU Member States signed the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) that aimed to establish a unified jurisdiction having exclusive power over civil litigations related to classical patents.

UPC will be a common court for all the Contracting Member States and will consist of the following:

  • Court of First Instance (CFI)
  • Court of Appeal
  • Registry

CFI will have several divisions, and its decision can be appealed in the Court of Appeal.

Benefits of the UPC

The unified judicial system will offer the following benefits:

  • Increased predictability and prevention of parallel litigations
  • Judgments having an effect in 25 Member states of the EU
  • Expedited procedures

The way forward

The Agreement will come into effect once 13 Signatory States have ratified it. This should include the three most patent-intensive Member States, i.e., Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

– The Editorial Team

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