The foundation of the unitary patent was laid down in 2011 during the Hungarian EU Presidency. It can be considered as an enhanced cooperation of Europe aiming to create a fertile system for the blossoming of European patents, this way improving the competitiveness of the European Union.
One of the most important changes deriving from the new system is that it strikingly reduces the fees associated with patent applications. Today, a European bundle patent costs as much as € 36.000 compared to the future unitary patent’s fee, which will be among € 4.700-6.000.
The new process of the unitary patent involves administrative and procedural simplification as well as a completely new language regime. From the official start of the unitary patent, it will be enough to file the application in only one of the official languages of the EU, namely English, French or German compared to the present system, where the patent holder needs to translate its invention to all the countries’ languages, he wants his patent to be legally protected. As the new system involves a high-quality machine translation service, human translational costs will be dramatically reduced.
The idea of the unitary patent was initially backed only by 12 Member States but finally gained the support of 13 further countries. Italy and Spain however, did not sign the agreement claiming that the new language regime was discriminative. Nevertheless, the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court – which will have jurisdiction in cases deriving from the unitary patent – was eventually signed by 24 Member States and additionally by Italy, though Poland opted out.
Consequently, the result is a European patent with unitary effect granted by the European Patent Office (EPO). The old and new procedures will coexist, as the bundle system along with national patent applications will stay valid. The bundle system and the unitary patent will fall under the jurisdiction of the Unified Patent Court, while cases regarding national patents will continue to be decided by the national offices.
The details of the procedures, the conditions of renewals and the associated fees will be determined by the Administrative Council of the EPO. The fees will essentially depend on the size of the market and the level of current fees, while they have to cover all sorts of administrational costs.
The unitary patent system has even more advantages other than being optional and cost-effective. The first and foremost benefit is probably the potential time spared, as due to the unitary patent there will be no need to validate a patent in each and every Member State. Renewal fees will also cost much less than in the bundle system and are to be paid in a single set. As jurisdiction of such patent matters will be exercised only by the Unified Patent Court, further procedural fees can be saved.