What are the differences between the Unitary patent and the “classical” European patent?

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Compared to the “classical” European patent which becomes a bundle of national patents validated in each Member State where protection is requested, the Unitary patent will give its holder a unique patent protection – uniform scope and equal effect of protection -  in 26 Member States of the European Union. For the applicants, this entails no further need for national validation, and offers a single annuity, one place to register transfers and licencesand after grant, and no further translation requirements.

The aim of the Unitary patent is to simplify the existing system by offering businesses an alternative route to patent protection and dispute settlement.

The existing system incurs costs for validation and renewal fees in each Member State where protection is granted, including related translation costs. In comparison, there is only a single renewal fee for the Unitary patent, and no validation costs except the cost for one translation during the transitional period.

Indeed, for a transitional period of 12 years, until a machine translation system maintained by EPO (called “Patent translate”) becomes fully operational, a full translation into English of the European patent specifications must be provided if the Unitary patent is granted in German or French or, if the language of the proceedings is English, into an official language of a EU member state. In any case, translations into a relevant EU language may be requested by a court or by a defendant in an infringement case.

Unlike enforcement of European patents, which has to be carried out in each national jurisdiction, the Unitary patent may be enforced or revoked in a single action for all the participating territories before the Unified Patent Court.