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The Unitary Patent: A new route to European patent protection

The Unitary Patent seeks to offer businesses a new route to European patent protection at the European Patent Office (EPO). Its implementation has been delayed numerous times and is currently scheduled for early 2018.

UPDATE: What will be the impact of the UK's vote to leave the EU?

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 participating 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 EU 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 EU, 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 EU 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 most of the 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. For the latest updates, read our helpful Unitary Patent FAQ, speak to one of our experts or read our recent news updates.

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.

UPDATE: What will be the impact of the UK's vote to leave the EU?

Unitary Patent: Further information

For more information on the Unitary Patent, click here to read our helpful FAQ. For more detail on patent filing strategies in Europe in general, click here or contact our customer support team, using the contact form at the top right of this page.