Since January 19, 2022, the Unified Patent System in Europa has been ramped up. On this day, EU Member Austria has ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA). Now enough EU Members are on board for the new system and the execution of the “Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application (PPA)” has started. The implementation of the PPA will lead to the gradual launch of the system, for example, judges are elected and appointed. The new system will start on 1 June 2023.
Currently, the new European Unified Patent System is being implemented, which is planned to start on April 1, 2023. The introduction of the Unified Patent System will have an impact on all European patents, including “old” European patents that have already been granted and are in force. Please find below more information on the new Unified Patent System.
After the start of the European Unified Patent System, an applicant of a European patent application can choose between the following options after grant:
- European Unitary Patent which will be uniformly in force in (currently) 17 EU states, including Germany, France, and Italy. In Fig. 1 below, these are the EU states marked in blue.
- Classic European Patent, which will be validated in one or more of the 39 member states (including Montenegro as of October 1, 2022) of the European Patent Organization, as before. In Fig. 1, these are all states marked in blue and green.
- Mixture of the European Unitary Patent, which will be in force in 17 EU states (see Fig. 1 in blue), and the Classic European Patent, which will be validated in one or more of the remaining 22 member states of the European Patent Organization (see Fig. 1 in green).
The new Unified Patent System provides for a Unified Patent Court. Patent infringement proceedings or nullity proceedings relating to a Unitary Patent can be conducted centrally via this court. The Unified Patent Court is responsible for European Unitary Patents and for classic European Patents and thus also for “old” European Patents which are still in force. However, in the case of a classical European Patent, during a transitional period of between 7 and 14 years after the start of the Unified Patent System, the national courts in the countries where the classic European Patent is validated will have jurisdiction in addition to the Unified Patent Court as before. In other words, for example, patent infringement proceedings in the case of a Unitary Patent will take place centrally before the Unified Patent Court, whereas in the case of a classic European Patent, a choice can be made between the Unified Patent Court and the national courts.
A patentee of a classic European Patent has the possibility – during the transitional period mentioned above – to exclude the jurisdiction of the Unified Patent Court. For this purpose, it is necessary to file a so-called “opt-out-request” for the classic European Patent. After the exclusion of the Unified Patent Court due to an opt-out-request, the national courts will continue to have exclusive jurisdiction for the classic European Patent.
Fig. 2 below shows the different possibilities.
An opt-out-request can already be filed 3 months before the start of the Unified Patent system in the so-called “sunrise period”. It is currently planned that the sunrise period starts on January 1, 2023. The question as whether an opt-out-request should be filed for a classic European Patent depends on the individual case. An opt-out-request is only possible as long as no action is pending before the Unified Patent Court.
Patentees and applicants of classic European Patents should take the following steps with regard to the new Unified Patent System:
- A patent proprietor of a classic European Patent should be aware in advance – i.e. preferably before the start of the sunrise period – whether an opt-out-request is necessary. If so, this should be filed during the sunrise period.
- If a classic European Patent has several patentees, they must jointly decide on a possible opt-out-request. They should therefore reach an agreement – preferably in writing – regarding a possible opt-out-request.
If you have any questions about the new Unified Patent System – for example, about the steps mentioned above – we will be pleased to answer them personally.
You can also find more information on the new Unified Patent System in our whitepaper or directly download the pdf.
Since January 19, 2022, the Unified Patent System in Europa has been ramped up. On this day EU Member Austria has ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA). Now enough EU Members are on board for the new system and the execution of the “Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application (PPA)” has started. The implementation of the PPA will lead to the gradual launch of the system, for example, judges are elected and appointed. At the moment, Germany is acting as a “Gatekeeper”. As soon as the system is ready, Germany will file its ratification certificate and 3-4 months later (according to Art. 89(1) UPCA) the Unified Patent System will start.
The introduction of the Unified Patent System has an impact on all European patents, also on “old” European patents which are already granted and in force. Patentees and applicants of European patents and applications should be aware of the implications and respond as needed. This white paper is intended to provide a basic overview of the European Unified Patent System and to support the patentees and applicants in possible steps.
You can download a pdf version of this whitepaper in the following languages: english, japanese
The previous approval in the German Bundestag was unconstitutional
On March 10, 2017, the German Bundestag already approved the UPC Agreement. However, on March 31, 2017, a constitutional complaint was filed with the German Constitutional Court. Therefore, the ratification process of the Unified Patent System was stopped by Germany. On February 13, 2020, the Constitutional Court decided inter alia that in the vote in the German Bundestag the 2/3 majority was missing. After this decision of the Constitutional Court, the German Bundestag approved a new, unchanged bill on the UPC Agreement with a sufficient majority on November 26, 2020.
Besides the UPC Agreement, the German Bundestag adopts a protocol on provisional applicability
In addition to the UPC Agreement, the German Bundestag also approved a protocol on provisional applicability on November 26, 2020. With this protocol, it is possible that the Preparatory Committee of the Unified Patent System can appoint judges for the UPC, rent office space, etc. before the certificate of ratification is deposited by Germany.
In the next step, the German Bundesrat (Federal Council) has to approve the UPC Agreement
In Germany besides the Bundestag also the Bundesrat has to approve the UPC Agreement. The vote on this will take place on December 18, 2020. The approval of the UPC agreement in the Bundesrat is very likely since the same parties have a majority in the Bundesrat as in the Bundestag. Afterward a countersignature by the Federal Government and the German President takes place. In the end the approval is published in the German Federal Law Gazette. Then, the certificate of ratification is ready to be deposited by Germany.
The Central Divisions of the UPC will be located in Munich and Paris
Since the UK is going to leave the European Union on January 1, 2021, the UK is not part of the Unified Patent System and London will no longer be a location for the UPC Central Divisions. Therefore, the Central Divisions of the UPC will be located in Munich and Paris.
Summary of the important next steps
- On December 18, 2020, the German Bundesrat will probably approve the UPC Agreement.
- Then, the protocol on provisional applicability will be deposited by Germany (probably spring 2021).
- After that, the Preparatory Committee of the Unified Patent System will appoint judges, rent office space, buy furniture, etc.
- Germany will deposit the certificate of ratification after the preparation of the Preparatory Committee (probably end of 2021).
- Expected start of the Unified Patent System is in spring 2022.
Information of the German Bundestag:
Information of the European Patent Office:
WINTER BRANDL Partnerschaft mbB, Patent Attorney Michael Schüller, Munich