If you want to protect a product by patent in Europe today, you generally will file an application in the European Patent Office (“EPO”).  When your application is (eventually) reviewed and approved by the EPO, you then must register the approved application with each individual European country in which you desire a patent and must file any translations required by the individual country.   The actual patents are issued by the individual countries and are enforced in the courts of the individual countries.  You must pay ‘annuities’ every year to each individual country to maintain the patent in effect in that country.   The process is time consuming, duplicative, and expensive.

All of that is about to change.  The European Parliament has passed a regulation to create a ‘Unified Patent’ to be issued by the EPO and enforced by centralized European courts.  The Unified Patent will bypass the registration process in individual countries, avoid translation expenses, avoid local annuities, and avoid the need to file multiple lawsuits in multiple countries to either enforce or attack a patent.  To take effect, the new system must be ratified by thirteen European Union member states including France, Germany and the UK.

Italy and Spain are not in agreement with the Unitary Patent regulation and likely will not participate.

— Robert Yarbrough, Esq.