The Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court

The Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court started on 1 July 2023. The Unitary Patent does not replace previous routes to a patent, but is an addition.

The Unitary Patent

A Unitary Patent provides patent protection in the EU countries that are part of the scheme.

The patent application is submitted and processed as usual at the EPO, i.e. nothing has changed in the application processing phase. After a European patent has been granted, the patent holder can claim unitary effect for the patent within one month. This means that the patent will apply in the countries that are part of the scheme. There are currently 17 EU members.

Unitary effect means that the patent has one and the same protection with the same legal consequences in all EU countries where the unitary patent is valid.

You pay the annual Unitary Patent fee to the EPO. The EPO also manages the unitary patent register.

Even if unitary effect is required, the patent holder can also validate the European patent in the countries that are not part of the Unitary Patent scheme. Instead of requiring a unit effect, it is also possible to only validate in the countries where you want to have a patent, as before.

Be aware that a Unitary Patent will not apply in Norway. A European patent must be validated in Norway for it to be valid here.

The Unified Patent Court

Both intervention and validity fall under the Unified Patent Court (UPC). The Court has authority for both unitary patents and validated (classical) European patents in all countries covered by the scheme. For classic European patents, during a transitional period it is possible to take legal action to national courts or to opt-out from the Common Court.

Decisions in the joint patent court will not be valid for Norwegian validations of European patents since Norway is not a member of the court system.

Norwegian holders of EP patents that have been validated in countries that are part of the UPC should be aware that the court system, in addition to having authority over EP patents with unitary effect, also has authority over the traditional EP patents. This also applies to EP patents that were validated before the UPC came into force. Norwegian holders of EP patents should therefore draw up a strategy on whether they wish to opt-out for their EP patents from the joint patent court scheme.

The court system, the UPC, consists of a court of first instance, an appeal court and a registry. Questions of legal interpretation can be reviewed by the EU Court of Justice.

The seat of the Court of First Instance is Paris, with branches in Munich and from June 2024 in Milan. There are several local and regional branches. The Court of Appeal is located in Luxembourg.