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EPO publishes Unitary Patent Guide

The 40-page guide was published by the EPO on 18 August 2017 and it is structured in 8 main sections covering general aspects of the Unitary Patent, an outline of each step of the procedure involved in obtaining a Unitary Patent as well as accessory procedures relating to the new unitary system, such as the compensation scheme for translation costs, the filing of statements on licenses of right and the payment of renewal fees.

Nevertheless, for unitary patent system to come into force, Germany and the UK still need to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement. The ratification has been delayed in both countries as a result of a legal challenge initiated before the German Constitutional Court and the process of the UK leaving the EU, respectively. In this regard, the EPO has taken the opportunity in the guide to comment on the likely effect of Brexit:

“Whether the United Kingdom continues to participate in the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court after its withdrawal from the EU will be a political decision for the EU, its remaining Member States and the United Kingdom and may be addressed as part of the exit negotiations. Should the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU become legally effective, EU Regulations No 1257/2012 and No 1260/2012 creating the Unitary Patent will cease to apply there. This will not, however, lead to a loss of patent protection in the United Kingdom for Unitary Patent proprietors. Appropriate solutions that avoid any loss of rights or legal uncertainty can be expected. The protection of acquired rights and the preservation of legal certainty are general principles of law respected throughout Europe.”

As a start date for the Unified Patent Court and the Unitary Patent, mid-2018 (or even later) seems to be currently a reasonable target.

A PDF of the Unitary Patent Guide is available here.