The Unitary Patent is a singular patent effective within all participating member states of the European Union.
Currently, a single European patent (EP) application is granted by the EPO (European Patent Office) – Once granted; the EP needs to be validated in each of the member states, resulting in a ‘bundle’ of national patents. Patent Validation typically consists of three steps:
Translation guidelines and official fees vary depending on country as a result of national patent laws. The majority of applicants choose between 3-10 countries to have their patent validated within, the average applicant validates in 4 or 5 countries with just 1% of applicants validating in all states. As of now, each national patent exists independent of one another and must be litigated separately in the relevant national court. Renewal fees also exist independently of one another, they are paid directly in each country.
In December 2012, the European Parliament approved the ‘European Patent with Unitary Effect’ (Unitary Patent) supported by a Unified European Patent Court. Read more here The initial stage of the European patent process remains the same; however, following grant the applicant will now have to choose between two options:
Once a patent has been granted, a single Renewal fee will be payable to cover all participating countries, additional Renewal fees will still be applied in non-participating countries. The Unitary Patent will be revoked, maintained, assigned or amended centrally, with effect in all participating EU countries (meaning it will not be possible to drop patent protection in single countries). If a Unitary patent is attacked and lost, it will be lost in all Unitary Patent countries.