The Unitary Patent provides a new way for innovators and companies to protect their intellectual property in the EU. Currently, European patents are granted centrally by the European Patent Office (EPO), but result in a bundle of national patents which must be enforced on a country-by-country basis. In contrast, the Unitary Patent means that a granted patent can be activated in all participating EU member states by a simple and speedy procedure.
Last week, the Select Committee responsible for supervising the EPO’s activities with regard to the Unitary Patent came to an agreement on the distribution of the uniform renewal fees to be paid by the Unitary Patent proprietors. According to the agreement 50% of the fees will be retained by the EPO while the remainder (minus an administrative charge) will be distributed among the participating countries according to a formula that takes account of the GDP and the number of applications filed from that country.
According to the Unitary Patent fee model which was agreed upon on 24 June 2015 by the Select Committee, the annual renewal fees will correspond to the combined renewal fees of Germany, the UK, France and the Netherlands, being the four EU countries in which “classical” European patents are most frequently validated by European patent applicants. The renewal fees, based on the so called “True Top 4 proposal”, start at €35 in the 2nd year to reach €4,855 in the 20th year. Hence, the costs of renewing a Unitary Patent will be €4,685 in total for the first ten years, while maintaining it over the full 20-year term will amount to €35,555.
Considering that the renewal fee issue has been one of the major hurdles for the implementation of the Unitary Patent in Europe, this agreement is an important step to making the Unitary Patent a reality as soon as possible. The Unitary Patent advances the common interest in having an effective and attractive patent system, and shows a clear determination to move forward its implementation.