10 questions and answers on the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court
10 questions and answers on the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court

From today, June 1, 2023, another court will start operating at international level: the Unified Patent Court. It has been a long and rocky road until then - the implementation of the initiative has been delayed for years due to Brexit and numerous political and legal discussions. In this article, we answer ten questions about the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court:

1 What exactly is a patent?

A patent is a technical property right. It protects new technical solutions that are based on an inventive achievement and are industrially applicable. Patents must be applied for at the Patent Office. The patent office then checks whether the invention is actually patentable. If the patent is granted, the owner has an exclusive right (monopoly) to his invention for a limited time and place. This means that he can exclude third parties from manufacturing, marketing or using the invention.

2 How has cross-border patent protection been obtained to date?

In Europe, there have so far been two ways to obtain cross-border patent protection: (1) You apply for a national patent at the national patent offices of the desired countries. (2) You apply for a European patent at the European Patent Office. Although this can be granted centrally by the European Patent Office, it is nothing more than a bundle of national patents of the member states of the European Patent Convention (EPC).

3 How has patent protection been enforced so far?

Both national patents and the European patent (= bundle of national patents) have so far been the responsibility of national courts or, in some countries - such as Austria - the patent offices. Proceedings with cross-border implications were therefore often lengthy and complicated.

4 What is the Unitary Patent?

The Unitary Patent is a new (third) form of patent protection in the participating states - including Austria: By filing a single application with the European Patent Office, the applicant can obtain unitary patent protection in all participating states.

5 Which states participate in the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court system?

Currently, 17 EU Member States participate in the system: Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, France, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Bulgaria. Further EU Member States may join the Unitary Patent Protection in the future.

6 What are the tasks of the Unified Patent Court?

From now on, uniform proceedings can be conducted before the Unified Patent Court in Milan (Italy) for all participating member states regarding the infringement and validity of patents in accordance with the European Patent Convention and the Unitary Patent. The court decides these disputes with direct effect for the participating states. It is technically very well equipped and always decides in electronic form.

7 Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court: What will change for Austrian entrepreneurs?

Thanks to the new patent category "Unitary Patent", uniform cross-border patent protection can be obtained through a single application to the European Patent Office. In the case of transnational patent infringements, patent proprietors can assert the infringement in a single action before the Unified Patent Court instead of initiating infringement proceedings in all countries concerned, as was previously the case.

8 What is the legal mechanism behind the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court system?

The Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court initiative is an EU initiative. The establishment of the Unified Patent Court is based on the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. This is a treaty under international law that had to be ratified by the participating EU member states.

9 What will happen to existing "bundle patents" (= European patents)?

In principle, existing "bundle patents" will also be subject to the Unified Patent Court in the future - however, this only applies in the 17 participating states to date; in addition, a transitional period of seven years is planned during which national jurisdiction will exist in parallel. Holders of bundle patents can also prevent participation in the European Unitary Patent system by opting out. This will be particularly useful if there is a risk of infringement disputes in individual countries and the proprietor fears losing all transnational patent protection as a result of a dispute before the Unified Patent Court.

10 Where can I find further information on the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court system?

Further information on the European Patent Court can be found on the homepage of the Unified Patent Court: https://www.unified-patent-court.org/en

Do you have any further questions?

Please contact us under office@geuer.at or by telephone on +43-1-4380072 if you have any further questions. You can also find information about our services on our homepage.

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