Adoption of unitary patents approaching
The preparations of the unitary patent (UP) and the Unified Patent Court (UPC) have reached the point of practical implementation.
Germany must still ratify the UPC Agreement before the unitary patent system and the Unified Patent Court can start. Unitary patents will be granted and the operations of the Unified Patent Court will begin on the first day of the fourth month after Germany has ratified the agreement. The unitary patent system is expected to start at the end of 2022 or at the beginning of 2023.
A unitary patent offers a new alternative alongside the classic European patent. A patent holder can validate their patent in all countries participating in the unitary patent system at the same time. Initially, there are 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 a patent holder wishes to validate their patent 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 traditional European patents validated in the participating countries will be litigated in the Unified Patent Court (UPC). However, the patent holder will have the option to keep their European patent beyond 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 transition period, which will begin on the day Germany ratifies the agreement. However, an opt-out notification cannot be filed if an action against the patent has already been brought at the UPC. This is why it is recommended to file any possible opt-outs for European patents right after Germany has ratified the agreement.
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 validated in Finland will increase over the years. As patents confer the exclusive right to utilise them commercially, the increasing number of patents can limit companies' freedom of action in Finland. This will also increase the possibility of 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.
More information about unitary patents
For more information, please contact:
Patent advisory service
Tel. +358 29 509 5858