The unitary patent system will start on 1 June 2023
The unitary patent (UP) offers a new alternative alongside the classic European patent. The unitary patent system enables the patent holder to gain a patent valid in all the countries participating in the system at the same time. When the system starts on 1 June 2023, there will be 17 EU member states in the system.
Unitary patents are granted by the European Patent Office (EPO). The EPO will also continue to grant classic European patents. The process of applying for a patent at the EPO will not change. Once a European patent has been granted, the patent holder can request registration as a unitary patent. A unitary patent is possible for all European patents that are granted after the system starts, and the unitary patent application should be submitted within a month of granting a patent.
A unitary patent is a more affordable option than a European patent when an applicant wishes to gain a patent valid in four or more EU countries participating in the system.
Unified Patent Court (UPC) and opt-out
In the new system, disputes over unitary patents and classic European patents validated in the participating countries will be litigated in the new Unified Patent Court (UPC).
However, patent holders will have the option to exclude their European patents from the scope of UPC litigation. In these situations, disputes will be litigated in the court of each country as they are today.
This opt-out requires a notification to the UPC. The notification can be filed at any time within the seven-year transitional period. However, an opt-out notification cannot be filed if an action has already been brought before the UPC in respect of the patent.
Effects on the operating environment for businesses in Finland
At present, there are just over 50,000 European patents and national patents valid in Finland. Along with the unitary patent system, the number of patents in Finland will increase over the years. As patents confer the exclusive right to use them commercially, the increasing number of patents can limit companies' freedom of action in Finland. This will also increase the possibility of patent infringements, which should be considered even more carefully in the future.
Therefore, companies should follow their competitors’ patenting, even if they did not actively protect their own inventions by patenting. The European Patent Office will maintain a register of the granted unitary patents where anyone can browse them freely.
Instructions and further information
See our useful links below for more information about the unitary patent and its effects:
We will organise an online training course for SMEs in Finnish on Friday 26 May from 9.00 to 11.00: Yhtenäispatentti ja sen vaikutukset suomalaisille pk-yrityksille