The patent landscape in Europe is set to change dramatically in the coming months. European Patents with Unitary Effect (“Unitary Patents”) have been in development for years but are expected to come into effect in early 2023. Unitary Patents will come into being four months after Germany ratifies the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (the “UPCA”). Germany is expected to ratify the UPCA after all preparations for the Unified Patent Court (the “UPC”) are completed. A significant milestone towards completing these preparations is the final version of the Unified Patent Court Rules of Procedure coming into force next week on 1 September 2022.
Once Germany ratifies the UPCA applicants will be able to apply for Unitary Patents which will have effect across up to 25 European countries for a single validation fee and renewal fee which will be comparable to validating and renewing in four countries under the current national validation system.
With the introduction of the Unified Patent approaching, patentees should review their European enforcement strategies. Once the UPCA comes into force litigants will be able to challenge existing European Patents in the UPC and potentially invalidate entire European portfolios in a single action unless patentees opt-out of the UPC. Conversely, patentees who wish to enforce their patents across Europe may find the UPC a more efficient tool as they could enjoin parties from infringing their patents across all participating states with a single action.