A changed landscape for patents in Europe
Patents have long been a key tool in the armoury for protecting innovation, but a challenge for those who trade across borders is that patent rights have historically been enforced on a country-by-country basis, meaning that cross-border enforcement is complex and expensive. This has been true in Europe even after the introduction some decades ago of the European Patent Office (EPO), which provides a central process for the grant of patents for all EU states and a range of others, including the UK.
The introduction of the Unitary Patent (UP) and Unified Patent Court (UPC) on 1 June 2023 has fundamentally changed this landscape, providing the option to centrally litigate patent rights across the participating countries (initially 17 countries, including France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands) in a single action. This represents the biggest shake up of the international patent system in decades, marking the culmination of many years of attempts at harmonisation.
What is changing if I am looking to protect my invention?
Since this is a change that affects the post-grant patent landscape, the process for obtaining patents is relatively unaffected. To obtain patent rights in Europe, you can still file at the EPO using European Patent Attorneys based in the UK. Outside of Europe, your patent attorney can advise you on the most suitable strategy using the procedures that have been in place for some years. As well as the EPO, national patent offices, such as the UK Intellectual Property Office, also remain open for business – the right option for you will depend on your budget and business needs. Read more