A milestone for the Unitary Patent

02 December 2016

epo_battistelli_24250_rgb-648x432The United Kingdom has announced its intention to ratify the Unified Patent Court agreement. This is the exciting news recently given by UK Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, and it has been met with positive responses by the European Commission, the other Member States and the user community. I strongly welcome this development as a key milestone in Europe’s quest to put into operation a new form of patent protection in Europe.

Right from the outset, the additional advantages of the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court have been clear. With a single patent valid in up to 26 EU Member States, the UP is set to reduce the administrative burden on applicants everywhere. Lower post grant costs will ensure significant savings for our businesses and the unified patent court will introduce a uniform litigation system and thus ensure greater legal certainty. And all the while, applicants will still benefit from the rigorous quality standards of the EPO, as the administering organisation for the unitary patent.

Given these advantages, we have remained optimistic throughout the ratification process that Member States would continue to ratify the agreement. Even after Brexit earlier this year, it was hoped that the benefits of the UPP and UPC would ensure that Member States would continue to work towards ratification. My interactions with many stakeholders over the last few months have revealed a collective will to find a solution to any impasse and that this would be reflected by national governments.  After all, it is a patent for our inventors, for our businesses and industry, and for our economy, indeed, for patent applicants from across the world. The participation of the UK will now consolidate the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court as attractive propositions for future patent holders.

Against this backdrop the EPO has worked to ensure that it is ready to start efficiently administering the unitary patent. It was almost exactly one year ago that the Select Committee formalised a complete secondary legal framework comprising the implementing rules, budgetary and financial rules, and the level of the renewal fees. This ensured that the EPO has for some time been legally, technically and operationally ready to deliver the first unitary patent.

The long awaited Unitary Patent Package is now on the verge of becoming operational. The ratification procedures are well advanced in Italy, Slovenia and Lithuania. It is now hoped that the outstanding ratifications of the UPC Agreement by the UK and Germany, which are required for the entry into force, are achieved as soon as possible so that we might see the first unitary patent by the end of 2017. There have, of course, been many milestones on this quite extraordinary journey. But, with the recent announcement by the UK, there is every possibility that it will indeed be the case. The next major development in patent protection in Europe is firmly back on track and has never been closer.

Benoît Battistelli


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