On February 17, 2023, the German government ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA), marking the single most important reform in the history of the European patent system since its founding treaty was signed, the European Patent Convention, in 1973.
Starting June 1, 2023, the new system will (i) enable uniform patent protection across all participating EU member states via a single application and corresponding Unitary Patent, and (ii) establish a Unified Patent Court (UPC) that has the authority to hear cases concerning the Unitary Patent. Currently, a Unitary Patent will provide patent rights in 17 European member states, and in the future may be as many as 25 member states. Those 17 member states are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden.
Among other benefits, with a Unitary Patent, an applicant seeking patent protection may obtain broader protection at lower costs. Alternatively, an applicant may opt out of the Unitary Patent option and pursue validation of patent rights of the specific countries of their choosing. However, once an applicant opts out, that decision persists for the life of the patent.
It is important to note that the United Kingdom no longer member of the EUIPO, separate application filings in the UK are required, and there is no availability of a Unitary Patent or the UPC.
Given that this is a new system and more developments are likely to occur, an applicant undoubtedly has a variety of options, each providing unique and strategic advantages. The attorneys at Wasserbauer IP Law can guide you through the option best suited for your particular needs.