Unitary patents and the Unified Patent Court—historical background and development
Produced in partnership with Alan Johnson of Bristows LLP
Unitary patents and the Unified Patent Court—historical background and development

The following IP guidance note Produced in partnership with Alan Johnson of Bristows LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Unitary patents and the Unified Patent Court—historical background and development
  • Historical background and concepts
  • The unitary patent and Unified Patent Court—structure and timings
  • Detail on the Unitary Patent
  • Detail on the UPC
  • Conclusion

STOP PRESS: the UK Government has verbally confirmed that it will not be seeking involvement in the unitary patent/UPC system. This Practice Note is being updated. For more information, see: LNB News 28/02/2020 57

Historical background and concepts

As far back as the 1950s, the six founding members of what is now the EU sought to introduce a patent covering the totality of their territories. Better known as a Community patent, and now as a unitary patent (UP), this goal has proved difficult to reach, but two EU regulations were adopted in December 2012 and a non-EU Treaty was signed in February 2013 to establish a Unified Patent Court (UPC) for litigating these unitary (and importantly) both future and existing European patents and their supplementary protection certificates (SPCs). The intervening years, however, have added a significant layer of complexity to the patent regime in Europe, as has, of course, the result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, and a complete understanding of the new regime and its potential value and effect requires a recap of the major events.

The European Patent Convention and European Patent Office

In 1973, the European Patent Convention (EPC) was adopted and it subsequently expanded to include not only all present EU Member States, but also ten other states. These 38 countries,