Unitary Patent System: A Step
in the Right Direction

Unitary Patent System: A Step
in the Right Direction

Ankita Tyagi & Akshi Sharma | 1st June 2023

The unitary patent is a legal title that offers consistent protection across all participating countries in a convenient and streamlined manner.

The Unitary Patent System (UPS), which has come into effect from 1st June, 2023, is a significant step in making patent filing simpler and streamline the enforcement across the EU. It significantly reduces costs for inventors and innovators to protect their inventions across multiple European countries.

The System will, thus, augment the region’s leadership in boosting innovation, and enable their adoption for business and industrial application. It will also encourage research, development, and investment in innovation, thereby promoting economic growth within the European Union and collaborations with other jurisdictions.

Before UPS, patents needed to be filed individually in each of the Member States, following initial ratification by the European Patent Office (EPO), resulting in longer lead time and increased costs. This also led to higher redundancies, such as validation, language translation, appointment of patent attourneys in each Member State. The new regime simplifies this process by through a single patent that works in multiple countries. This helps inventors and businesses to protect their ideas and promote innovation more effectively in Europe.

UPS consists of two components: the Unitary Patent Protection (UPP) and the Unified Patent Court (UPC). The UPP system aims to make the existing European patent system simpler and more affordable for inventors, whether they are individuals, companies, or research organizations.

UPC will have jurisdiction over all European unitary patents, both existing and future, that are designated to participating EU Member States. It will provide a unified legal framework for patent protection in participating countries. Currently however, some countries, such as Spain, Croatia, Poland, and the UK, are not participating in the UPC. These patents will fall under the jurisdiction of the national courts in those countries.

These components form the foundation of the system, providing unified patent protection and a specialized court to handle patent-related disputes within the participating countries. They will work together to enable inventors to choose between a standard European patent, a national patent, or a unitary patent. In fact, the European Commission also strongly supports the implementation of the unitary patent system and the creation of a new patent court.

Under the Unitary Patent System, inventions will be better protected compared to the current system. Many innovators choose to patent their inventions in only a few countries due to the high expenses associated with validating and maintaining European patents nationally. This limited protection diminishes the value of their inventions, as they become easier to copy in regions lacking adequate intellectual property safeguards.

Benefits of UPS:

UPS is catered to not only benefit inventors and those in the innovation ecosystem, but also bolster the EU’s economy by benefitting the common man. Some such avenues include:

More innovative products: The system makes it easier for inventors to protect their ideas in multiple European countries with a single patent. This means you get access to a wider range of cool and useful inventions.

Lower prices, more choices: The system encourages competition among businesses, which leads to lower prices. That means you can enjoy affordable goods and services and have more options to choose from.

More jobs and a stronger economy: When inventors are supported, they can create new technologies and businesses. This creates job opportunities and helps the economy grow, which benefits everyone.

Protect consumer rights: Patents provide legal protection for inventors, ensuring the safety and quality of their products. This means you can trust that the things you buy are reliable and won't harm you. Patents also promote fair competition, preventing companies from taking advantage of consumers.

UPS, thus, makes it easier for inventors to protect their ideas, which benefits the masses by giving access to more innovative products, lower prices, job opportunities, better technology, and consumer protection.

The unitary patent system will make it easier and cheaper for companies, including start-ups, to protect their inventions in Europe. They will pay lower renewal fees, reducing the cost compared to other countries.

Supporting small businesses, individuals, non-profit organizations, universities, and research institutions is a key priority under UPS. In fact, it creates a provision for disbursement of €500 to such organisations to help cover translation costs when their unitary patent is registered. This makes patent protection more affordable and accessible, benefiting European companies and encouraging innovation in the EU market.

Patent Filing under UPS:

Once the European Patent Office (EPO) approves a patent, applicants can request a "unitary" patent that gives them the same protection in all participating countries. If they need to appeal, it should be done in the language used by the EPO during the application process. The court system handles both unitary and traditional European patents.

The ‘Unitary Patent Guide’ is designed to help companies, inventors, and their representatives understand the process of obtaining a Unitary Patent from the European Patent Office (EPO). It focuses on the steps involved after the EPO grants a European patent under the rules of the European Patent Convention (EPC).

During the current transition period, traditional European patents can choose not to be part of the unitary system. Similarly, not all countries may join the unitary patent system immediately, as is the case currently. New countries are envisaged to join over time. Significantly, once a unitary patent is registered, its coverage stays the same and doesn't expand to new member states.

In summary, UPS simplifies patent protection across countries, but some patents may choose not to participate, and the coverage may vary depending on the countries involved. Thus, it needs to be seen as a significant step in the right direction. As the UPS ecosystem grows in the coming years, its effectiveness will automatically be enhanced.

Impact in India

UPS also has positive implications on high-potential Indian startups, innovators and SMEs exploring to the European market. It allows them seamless single window integration to file patents in participating EU Member States.

For the same, applications first need to be filed in India and then choosing other jurisdictions under Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), and the term of patent will be 20 years from the international filing date accorded under PCT. Filing an application in India enables the applicant to file a corresponding application for same invention in convention countries or under PCT, within or before expiry of twelve months from the filing date in India. Patents should be obtained in each country where the applicant requires protection of his invention. They can then further enroll under the Unitary Patent System.

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