The European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted December 11, 2012 the two draft regulations on the creation of a unitary patent.
This system is expected to reduce the costs of protecting inventions in Europe and interest in particular research centers and SMEs.
The European patent with unitary effect or unitary patent valid for the 25 participating states (Spain and Italy are not members of this agreement) is based on two regulations, one of creating the instrument, and the other language regime for the new patent (three official languages German, English and French). The European Patent Office (EPO) is responsible for issuing and managing unitary patents.
Moreover, a unified patent litigation system has been established under an international convention establishing the Unified Court (UPC), a specialized tribunal with a first and appeal instance with exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the infringement and unitary patent validity.
The unitary patent must now be formally adopted by the EU Council and the European Parliament.
The first unitary patent applications may be filed as soon as the legal provisions for both the unitary patent and the UPC will come into force. The agreement establishing the UPC should be signed February 18, 2013 and will enter into force once thirteen Member States of the European Union (EU), including France, Germany and the United Kingdom have ratified the package. The EPO plans to approve the first unitary patent in 2014.
The unitary patent will provide legal protection for inventors in 25 EU Member States through a single administrative process. He co-exist with national patents and European patent with which it shares the legal basis and the granting proceeding (as defined in the European Patent Convention), from which it differs only in the post- delivery part: within the unitary patent system, the EPO will also be in charge of a centralized administration of the patent, the collection of annual fees and their distribution to Member States participating in the EU.
The fact that the unitary patents will be treated as a single patent no longer requiring to be validated (including translation) or administered at the national level in each state should lead to massive savings in terms of time and cost. This should make Europe more attractive for investors and innovation and bring on an equal footing with its competitors in Asia and the United States.