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EU Unified Patent Court & Unitary Patent

In early 2013, the European Union adopted a package including two regulations that will create a European Patent with unitary effect (“Unitary Patent”) for participating states, and may lower translation and post-grant costs for parties electing to use the Unitary Patent. The package also includes a Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement (UPCA—a treaty) for signature by the interested EU states that will create a Unified Patent Court, which eventually will handle all litigation involving patents issued by the European Patent Office that are validated in participating EU states, including both the regular, nationally validated European Patents and the new Unitary Patents.

Because Spain and Italy did not want to give up translation into their languages, the EU package is proceeding under the principle of “enhanced cooperation,” which permits a majority of EU states to proceed by agreement when unanimity cannot be achieved. Of the 27 EU states at that time, 25 indicated their intent to participate.

Final EU regulations establishing the Unitary Patent and related translation regime, and the final version of the UPC Agreement were published January 11, 2013 and were signed by all EU states at that time except Spain and Poland.

The Unitary Patent regulations specify that they will be effective on the same date as the UPC Agreement (UPCA). That agreement and the Unitary Patent regulations will become effective for the ratifying states approximately three months after minimum ratification by 13 EU states including France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Five states ratified before August 1, 2014: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France and Sweden, and Malta has reportedly decided to ratify. The United Kingdom has given the Secretary of State authority to ratify the UPCA, and Germany is now expected to enact a ratification law in 2015; however, at least one of those countries is expected to delay depositing its ratification until the UPC is ready to open. Because of the work necessary to establish the new court, the agreement and regulations are now not expected to come into force before 2016. (See our Chronology page)

For more information, please see our EU Official Documents, Resources and FAQs 27-40. See the European Council’s website or the European Commission’s website for information on the progress of ratifications as they are officially deposited with the Council and reported to the Commission.

Updated November 18, 2014