*New* - Unitary Patent
What is the Unitary Patent (UP)?
The Unitary Patent (UP) is a new single European patent right with unitary legal effect for all 17 EU Member States that have ratified an Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. The new UP system comes into effect on 1 June 2023, where the holders of all European patents granted, on or after that date, can apply to the European Patent Office (EPO) to obtain unitary effect. Other EU Member States are anticipated to join the UP system in the future.
What is the difference between a Unitary Patent and a European Patent?
Once the EPO grants a European patent, that patent must still be sent to national patent offices to be validated and renewal fees must be paid to each of those national offices. The UP will also be processed by the EPO, but once granted, will be automatically valid in the participating EU Member States.
Does it affect my current granted European Patent?
Possibly, and current holders of European Patent need to be aware that once the new UP system comes into effect on 1 June 2023, all granted European Patents will fall within the jurisdiction of the new Unified Patent Court (UPC) for infringement and revocation actions. However, should the European Patent proprietor choose to opt-out their Patent from the new system, it will be removed from the jurisdiction of the new UPC and will continue to be dealt with before national courts.
How do I opt-out and can I opt-in in the future?
The holder of a European Patent or a current patent application can opt-out by filing an application with the EPO via the UPC website. This can be made before 1 June 2023 during a Sunrise Period, and up to the end of a transitional period, the date of which has yet to be determined. Consequently, the European Patent will remain outside of the UPC jurisdiction for the life of the Patent, unless the European Patent holder decides to opt-in at any time in the future.
Is Ireland one of the 17 participating EU Member States in the Unitary Patent system?
No. Some Member States, including Ireland, have yet to ratify the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. In Ireland’s case, a referendum must be held and passed before we can participate.
On the 23rd of January 2024, the Government approved a proposal to hold a constitutional referendum in June on Ireland’s participation in the Unified Patent Court. The referendum is to be held alongside the European and local elections. The Government has also approved the priority drafting of a Bill to give effect to the proposed constitutional amendment.
For more information please see the following link, Referendum on Unified Patent Court announced by Government - DETE (enterprise.gov.ie)
More information on the unitary patent can be found on the EPO website, including detailed questions and answers.