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UK finalises legislation to introduce the Unitary Patent and Court

05-04-2016

The amends to the UK Patents Act to give effect to the Unitary Patent Agreement and EU legislation have now been published. The legislation takes the form of Statutory Instrument (2016 No. 388) and will come into force when the UPC Agreement comes into force. The exact implementation date is still to be confirmed.

What is the Unitary Patent?
The concept behind the Unitary Patent is to provide a mechanism in which a single patent can cover all EU member states and where patents can be enforced across a broad region via a single court action. The Unitary Patent Package is far reaching and requires a completely new court system, the Unified Patent Court, to be established across the EU and this process is already well underway.

Political compromises have led to a system that will take a significant amount of time to reach completion and maturity, but nevertheless the Unitary Patent will imminently start to add another dimension of patent risk and patent opportunity to the European patent landscape.

All companies are advised to consider if this change may affect them and if so how they should prepare themselves to manage the change, the risks and opportunities this brings about.

Why protect rights in Europe?
With all the recent news coverage about economic austerity, it can be all too easy to overlook how valuable Europe is as a market to businesses, both within the Union and overseas. Even with the economic crisis, the European single market remains a major world trading power and, with new countries continuing to join the Union, its import and export of goods and services continues to rise.

Europe is already estimated to account for around 20% of global exports and imports, making the Union the world’s largest exporter and the second-largest importer of goods and services. Imagine then if you could file a European patent right that could provide protection across the entire European Union in one single application to the EPO? That in essence is the goal behind the development of the Unitary Patent, which is due to come into force across Europe in the next 12 months.

Is the Unitary Patent right for you?
There is still much to be resolved and agreed in the plans to implement, administer and enforce the Unitary Patent. However, plans are already sufficiently clear to help businesses to start evaluating the potential benefits to their business, and products and services, of filing the new pan-European patent right.

Preparation now can provide a useful opportunity to compare approaches for companies that already have European patent filing strategies in place. For example, will the new Unitary Patent offer your business a more cost-effective route to coverage and protection in key territories, or would it be more efficient to continue to opt for a strategy of national filings or EP/PCT validations? What will the impact be for your pending or future European patent rights if you opt into the Unitary Patent Court system? And, how can you be sure you won’t be compromising your future patent portfolio by including or excluding Unitary Patent protection?

Equally, for those companies that are yet to develop a coherent European patent filing strategy, now might be the ideal time to speak to an expert about developing the most efficient route to coverage for your business. If you trade in Europe, then it’s crucial to have an effective IP protection and enforcement strategy in place. The Unitary Patent could offer you an easy means to dip your toes into patent protection in the territory.

For more information on the Unitary Patent or advice on patent filing strategies in Europe in general, click here or contact our customer support team.