A major step forward in the creation of a unitary European patent system was taken on 11 December 2012 when the European parliament approved the unitary patent rules.
The unitary patent system will allow patent proprietors to obtain unitary patent protection in 25 countries of the European Union simply by one registration at the European Patent Office. Only one renewal fee will have to be paid centrally at the EPO for the unitary patent.
The level of the renewal fee is expected to correspond to the current renewal fee for 3-5 countries, and reductions will be available for SMEs. For enforcement of unitary patent a unitary patent court will be established. The court will consist of a first decentralised instance and a centralised instance for appeal.
It is currently expected that the Treaty establishing the Unified Patent Court will be signed by the heads of government of the participating states on 18 February 2013. Before entering into force the treaty must be ratified in at least UK, France, Germany and 10 further states. The first unitary patents are expected to be granted 1 April 2014.
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