Whilst the traditional system of validating European patents requires validation separately in each member state of interest, a unitary patent allows patent protection in a large number of EU states in a single request.
For those states which are part of the unitary patent system at the date of grant of a European patent, a request can be filed for a unitary patent, which provides a single EU patent covering those states.
The list of states which are part of the unitary patent can be found at https://www.epo.org/applying/european/unitary/unitary-patent.html.
For those states which are not part of the unitary patent system at the date of grant, validation in each separate state will still be required. Accordingly, a patent proprietor may have a unitary patent in addition to nationally validated patents, depending upon which countries are selected and whether they are part of the unitary patent system.
In order to obtain a unitary patent in the participating countries, we will need to file a translation of the patent specification into another EU language and attend to the formal requirements for conversion to a unitary patent. There is a very short, non-extendible deadline of 1 month after the date of grant for attending to this.
After grant, a single renewal fee is payable in respect of a unitary patent. For those states which were not part of the unitary patent system at the date of grant, and in which validation occurred, renewal fees will still be payable nationally.
Should you file for a unitary patent?
This can be a complex question and will depend upon the particular circumstances of each case. We will, of course, be pleased to discuss this with you. However, whilst cost savings might be achieved if many of your states of interest could be covered by a unitary patent instead of validation in multiple states, any infringement or validity proceedings will be decided by the, as yet untested, Unified Patent Court (UPC) and it will not be possible to opt out from this. In addition, whilst a cost saving in renewal fees will be possible, it will not be possible to reduce these if you later decide you are no longer interested in protection in all unitary states.
UNITARY (EU) PATENT