32The primary aim of the Unitary Patent is to supplement the centralised pre-grant procedure with a centralised post-grant procedure in which the EPO acts as a one-stop shop for the administration of Unitary Patents, i.e. for obtaining, maintaining and managing them. A Unitary Patent offers broad and uniform territorial protection together with a business-friendly level of renewal fees. It therefore provides better value for money and reduces both complexity and the associated costs.
33Moreover, under the current system, companies may have to litigate in parallel in all countries where their European patent is validated. Such multi-forum litigation is expensive and complex and can give rise to legal uncertainty. As a court common to the participating Member States, the Unified Patent Court centralises the litigation for both Unitary Patents and classic European patents, facilitates the development of consistent jurisprudence and increases legal certainty. This is a major step towards reducing fragmentation.
34A Unitary Patent enables inventors to obtain uniform and territorially broad protection in the participating Member States. Uniform protection means that the scope of the right conferred by a Unitary Patent and its limitations, as well as the available remedies, are the same for all the participating Member States.
35Instead of validating their European patent in several states, which can be a costly, time-consuming and complex administrative process, patent proprietors can obtain a Unitary Patent by filing a single request with the EPO. As explained in more detail below, the procedure for obtaining a Unitary Patent is very simple and straightforward and entirely free of charge.
36The Unitary Patent makes the European patent system simpler and significantly lowers the costs of obtaining patent protection in the participating Member States. It eliminates the need to comply with validation requirements in the participating Member States and the high costs associated with this. These costs can be considerable, especially where a European patent is validated in several participating Member States, and typically include translation costs incurred for validations and the publication fees payable to the various national patent offices, as well as the fees charged by local attorneys or other service providers. By contrast, there is no need to retain different local attorneys, agents or specialised service providers for a Unitary Patent.
37Moreover, under the current fragmented system, several renewal fees, which may vary in amount and currency, have to be paid to different national patent offices subject to different legal requirements. Unitary Patent proprietors pay one single renewal fee to the EPO, in one currency (i.e. in euros) and under a single legal regime as regards deadlines and admissible means of payment. This greatly simplifies matters for users.
38The renewal fee level is very attractive and business friendly as it is set at a level equivalent to the combined renewal fees of the top four countries among the participating Member States, i.e. those where classic European patents were most often validated at the time the fee level was adopted. The total fees for the first ten years ‒ which is the average lifetime of a patent ‒ amount to less than EUR 5 000. Moreover, patent proprietors who file a statement on a licence of right with the EPO can obtain a 15% reduction on the renewal fees.
39A comparison of the costs of a Unitary Patent with those of a classic European patent should take into account not only the level of the renewal fees but also the costs associated with the validation and maintenance of a classic European patent. Based on such a comparison, a Unitary Patent will be significantly less expensive than a European patent validated and maintained in four countries. Consequently, the more countries a classic European patent would have been validated in, the more cost-effective a Unitary Patent will be.
Renewal fees for the Unitary Patent
|2nd year||35||11th year||1 460|
|3rd year||105||12th year||1 775|
|4th year||145||13th year||2 105|
|5th year||315||14th year||2 455|
|6th year||475||15th year||2 830|
|7th year||630||16th year||3 240|
|8th year||815||17th year||3 640|
|9th year||990||18th year||4 055|
|10th year||1 175||19th year||4 455|
|20th year||4 855|
– Additional fee for belated payment of a renewal fee = 50% of the belated renewal fee (Article 2(1), item 2, RFeesUPP)
– 15% reduction in renewal fee in cases the proprietor filed a statement with the EPO offering a licence of right (Articles 8(1) Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 and Articles 11(3) Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012, Rule 12(1) UPR, Article 3 RFeesUPP)
40A Unitary Patent offers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and other small entities, which typically have only limited resources available, a simpler and more cost-effective route to broad and uniform protection for their inventions. A particular advantage of a Unitary Patent for these entities is the compensation scheme, which reduces translation costs for SMEs, natural persons, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations by providing for a lump-sum payment of EUR 500 (see point 75 onwards).
41Finally, as regards the management of a Unitary Patent, transfers, licences and other rights no longer have to be registered country by country in the national patent registers. Instead, a single registration entered in the Register for unitary patent protection centrally administered by the EPO is sufficient (see points 112 and 117). The same applies to statements regarding licences of right (see point 122). This considerably reduces administrative complexity, as the EPO operates under a single legal regime, also with regard to the kind of documents and evidence required. It also reduces the associated costs such as administrative fees or costs incurred in hiring multiple local agents.