The Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement will be signed by participating member states on 19 February 2013. This is one of the final major steps towards the establishment of a unitary patent system for Europe.
The Agreement is part of a package which also includes two EU Regulations, on unitary patent protection and associated translation arrangements (adopted in December 2012), which all together provide the legal basis for the future European Unitary Patent system. Such a system has been under discussion at European level since the 1970s.
Why has it taken until now?
It has taken so long to arrive at this point because of the complexity of establishing a complete and dedicated litigation system with jurisdiction for so many countries with different legal systems and languages. The fact that we have done so now is a considerable and historic achievement for the EU.
There is an existing European patent but it is not a unitary title. It is a bundle of national patents with no single jurisdiction for disputes. Any proceedings in relation to "bundled" European patents may be subject to diverse national laws and procedures. Consequently, claimants and defendants bear the risk of multiple litigation actions in a number of countries on the same patent issue. This can be a costly and lengthy process.
Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court
The unitary patent is a single patent which does not require validation or translation in other participating member states. Neither does it need to be administered in each and every state – there is a single jurisdiction.
The Unitary Patent system will make obtaining a European Patent less complex and cheaper while ensuring legal certainty throughout the entire single jurisdiction. This is why the patent system was singled out as one of the top priorities in the EU’s “Single Market Act” in April 2011.
This more affordable Europe-wide patent protection will encourage EU businesses to increase their innovation activity and is particularly good news for SMEs who have limited resources. It will also make Europe a more attractive place for investors.
These advantages combine to boost competitiveness and enhance the Single Market.