The Unitary Patent gets more unified

October 2015

Italy has joined the unitary patent as the 26th member of the enhanced cooperation on unitary patent protection.  This is a boost for the unitary patent, as Italy is the fourth biggest market in Europe in terms of patent validation.

So far 8 Member States have ratified the agreement on the Unified Patent Court which will eventually bring the unitary patent into effect: Austria, France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Malta, Luxembourg and Portugal.  The European Commission has urged all remaining participating EU countries to ratify the UPC Agreement as soon as possible so that the unitary patent package comes into force by the end of 2016 (13 countries, including France, Germany and the UK must ratify to bring the agreement into effect). 

 Other measures to help bring the unitary patent into force have also been agreed.  On October 1st 2015, a protocol to the UPC Agreement was signed by representatives of the member states.  The protocol will allow some parts of the UPC agreement to be applied early.  This includes final decisions on the practical set up of the Court, for example, the recruitment of judges and testing of IT systems.  The provisional application phase will also be used to allow for early registration of opt-out demands.

 This latest step towards bringing the Unified Patent Court into operation shows the commitment of the parties to meet the ambitious timescale of the UPC opening at the start of 2017.  But will patentees be ready?