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Activate the unitary patent system. Here's the news

The European patent system with unitary effect came into force on 2023 June XNUMX. It represents a procedural simplification and an economic saving for the companies that will use it.

The long history of the 'Unitary Patent'

'Patent protection unitary will favor scientific and technological progress and the functioning of the internal market by making access to the patent system easier, cheaper and legally secure. It will also improve the level of patent protection by making it possible to achieve uniform patent protection in the participating Member States and to eliminate costs and complexity for the benefit of businesses across the Union'.

So says recital 4 of the EU regulation 1257/2012 (1) which created the institution of the European Patent with Unitary Effect ('Unitary Patent') based on the enhanced cooperation of 25 Member States in the field of Unitary Patent Protection – decision 2011/167/EU – (2) to which the Italy joined in 2015.

More than 10 years from this agreement, the International Agreement on the Unified Patent Court (TUB) finally enters into force, giving rise to the unitary patent system. (3) This instrument complements the existing patent protections at national level (for Italy the UIBM) and at European level (EPO - European Patent Office).

More protection, less costs

The Unitary Patent it allows simultaneous protection in almost all the countries of the European Union – at the moment there are 17 that have ratified the TUB Agreement, including Italy – and will have a maximum duration of 20 years. The patent application is filed, as for the European patent, with the European Patent Office without the need to obtain a national validation. If it is accepted, the proposer will obtain, with a single procedure, protection in all the adhering States, with considerable economic and bureaucratic savings. (4)

Intellectual property (IP) represents an essential element for companies that can thus take advantage of their intangible assets, such as trademarks, designs, models and data. Streamlined, transparent and effective rules will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular to be more competitive and make the most of their inventions.

To understand the economic importance of this reform, according to the European Commission, IP-intensive industries account for almost half of total GDP and over 90% of all EU exports. And nearly 76% of intra-EU trade in the period 2017-2019 was generated by patent-intensive industries. From June 5 they will also have greater protection thanks to the entry into force of the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court (TUB). (XNUMX)

Structure of the Unitary Court

Through the TUB even the settlement of disputes becomes more efficient and economical. The Unified Court has exclusive jurisdiction over both European patents and patents with unitary effect. The headquarters of the Court of First Instance is Paris, with branch offices planned in Munich and London, the latter moved to Milan following Brexit thanks to an agreement between France, Germany and Italy. In particular, the shares relating to patents contained in the IPC list A section - Human Needs - are assigned in Paris while those contained in the IPC list C section - Chemistry and Metallurgy - in Munich (TUB Agreement, Annex II).

Each member state it may host a local division of the Court of First Instance or it may share a regional division with one or more other Member States. Court panels are multinational in composition and generally consist of three judges. The Court of Appeal is instead composed of 5 judges from different states and, together with the Chancery, is located in Luxembourg.

The linguistic question

The procedural language vis-à-vis the local or regional divisions of the Court of First Instance it is the language or one of the official languages ​​of the state hosting the court or the language chosen by the states in the case of a shared seat. States can also choose one or more official languages ​​of the EPO, namely English, French or German (for Italy, Italian and English).

Before the central division (and in the local ones if the parties agree to do so) the procedural language will be the one in which the patent was granted. While in the appeal, the language will be the one that was used in the first instance proceedings. (6)

The reg. EU 1260/2012 Article 4 provides for circumstances in which the holder of the unitary patent provides a complete translation of the patent:

  • at the request of the other party in the event of an infringement, in the language in which the alleged infringement occurred or in the language in which the alleged infringer belongs;
  • at the request of the competent court, in the language used before that court.

In both cases, the costs are borne by the patent holder. Member States may provide for a compensation scheme for translations up to a ceiling. (7)

Alessandra Mei


(1) EU Regulation no. 1257/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 17 December 2012, concerning the implementation of enhanced cooperation in the sector of the establishment of unitary patent protection. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32012R1257

(2) 2011/167/EU: Council Decision of 10 March 2011 on authorizing enhanced cooperation in the area of ​​establishing unitary patent protection. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32011D0167

(3) Unified Patent Court Agreement, 2013/C 175/01 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=celex%3A42013A0620%2801%29

(4) Ministry of Enterprise and Made in Italy. The unitary patent system kicks off on 1 June. 1.6.2023

(5) European Commission. Intellectual property: Harmonized EU patent rules boost innovation, investment and competitiveness in the single market. 27.4.2023 https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/it/ip_23_2454

(6) Unified Patent Court. Language of proceedings https://www.unified-patent-court.org/en/court/language-proceedings

(7) EU Regulation no. 1260/2012 of the Council, of 17 December 2021, on the implementation of enhanced cooperation in the area of ​​establishing unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation regime. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32012R1260

Alessandra Mei
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Graduated in Law from the University of Bologna, she attended the Master in Food Law at the same University. You participate in the WIISE srl benefit team by dedicating yourself to European and international research and innovation projects.

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