Unitary patent

The European patent system is under reform. As an option besides the existing patents, a European-wide patent is being planned for the protection of inventions. Furthermore, setting up a Unified Patent Court to make it possible to address patent disputes with legal bearing across the whole of Europe is under consideration.

It is not yet possible to estimate the timetable for the entry into force of the unitary patent system. The work to implement the system is unfinished. For the system to come into force, the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court has to be ratified by at least 13 EU member states, including the three most popular member states for validating European patents. There is updated information about the ratification progress on this EU website. Finland has ratified the agreement in January 2016.

In February 2020, the United Kingdom announced that it will not participate in the unitary patent system due to its withdrawal from the EU. In March 2020, the German Federal Constitutional Court stated that the processing of the ratification of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court is contrary to the German constitution, which is why Germany must reprocess the ratification of the Agreement.

European patent, but with a unitary effect

The European unitary patent will become a new alternative to protect inventions in Europe. The classical European patent has to be separately validated in each of the EPC-contracting states, whereas the unitary patent is given unitary effect for the territory of all the states participating in the scheme. When it becomes a reality, the unitary patent will be a regional, supranational alternative to the current European patents and national patents; it will provide a geographically comprehensive and unitary protection for your invention.

The European Patent Office (EPO) will grant both classical European patents and unitary patents. The application procedure at the EPO will not change. After a European patent is granted, you can request that it will be registered as a unitary patent. Read more about the unitary patent on the EPO website.

The current European patent system will be maintained alongside the unitary patent system. This will enable you to limit the patent protection to certain specific countries if this is the best and most cost-effective solution for you. Read more about the European patent.

Unified Patent Court (UPC)

In the future, disputes over unitary patents and classical European patents, which are dealt with in national courts at the moment, will be litigated by the Unified Patent Court (UPC). This means that a dispute will be resolved in one go for all the countries that are party to the UPC.

The Court of First Instance will have central divisions in Paris, London and Munich. Due to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the planned location of the central division in London has to be moved. Moreover, local and regional divisions can be set up in those countries that decide to do so. The Court of Appeal will have its seat in Luxembourg.

A local division will be set up in Finland, which would allow disputes over unitary patents to be litigated in the country. Go to the UPC website for more information.

Information about the UPC in Finnish

The Confederation of Finnish Industries and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment have drafted a paper discussing the impacts of the unitary patent system on Finnish businesses. The paper also describes the main features of the system reform. Go to the website of the Confederation of Finnish Industries for the whole text (in Finnish).

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Latest update 11.05.2020