Unitary Patent Update

In April 2018, the UK finally ratified the Unitary Patent Agreement, which, when it eventually comes into force, will give an option for most existing and all subsequent European patent applications to be granted as a single "unitary" patent with a territory covering nearly all the EU (Spain being the most notable exception).   

Why take the unitary effect for your European Patent?  

Higher Asset Value

A Unitary Patent will cover a market territory on a par with that covered by a US patent.  The value of a Unitary Patent as an IP asset may be accordingly significantly higher value in the eyes of investors - good news for start-ups and small entities who may need funding as well as larger commerical entities with IP saavy shareholders.   

Opportunites to Grow your EU Market

The territorial coverage of the Unitary Patent could make things more difficult for your competitors to operate in those EU state(s) where you would not normally validate your European patent in due to the current cost of covering your existing core European markets using individual validations.   

Opportunities for Licensing Revenue

Whilst more territorial coverage could benefit your market share in Europe, it could also open up a new revenue stream if licensing opportunities exist as unitary patent rights can be licensed on a state by state basis.   If you are willing to licence your Unitary Patent you may find you can reduce the annual fees which will need to be paid to keep it in force.   

Potential Cost-Savings 

Pan-EU patent protection will be obtainable for the cost of around four or so individual states.

Of course, whilst there are various benefits, particularly for software and related IoT, network or cloud-based areas of technology, there are some down-sides.  A major issue is that not all SMEs will be interested in patenting their technology so broadly so in their eyes the Unitary Patent will not offer any no cost-savings.  The new UPC patent litigation system will also take some getting used to when this comes into being. 

Of course, we are not there yet.  It has been a long while coming and there is still the hurdle of the challenge to the new unitary patent system pending before the courts in Germany to be overcome before the new patent regime becomes operational (Brexit issues aside).  It seems more likely than ever before, however, that the UP regime will become a reality in the near future.