On 11 December 2012, Members of the European Parliament accepted the regulations on the Unitary Patent System consisting of a European patent with unitary effect (Unitary Patent) and the Unified Patent Court (UPC). The formal adoption by the Council followed on 17 December 2012. The only remaining hurdle for adoption of the Unitary Patent System is a complaint Italy and Spain have filed about the use of so called enhanced cooperation to push through the proposed regulations. The Court of Justice of the European Union is expected to render its judgment on the complaint any time soon and follow the Advocate General's opinion proposing a judgment of dismissal.
The main feature of a Unitary Patent is its unitary character providing uniform protection and having equal effect in all the 25 participating Member States — it is notable that Italy and Spain opted out. Consequently, a Unitary Patent should only be limited, transferred or revoked, or lapse, in respect of all the participating Member States, but it will be possible to license it also in respect of part of the territories of the participating Member States.
Applications for a Unitary Patent must be filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) in English, French or German. Unitary patents will be available in the same three languages. The European Commission expects the system to greatly reduce the cost of an EU-wide patent from an average of EUR 36,000 today.
The claims arising from Unitary Patents and European Patents will be settled before a specialized court, the UPC. The UPC will comprise a Court of First Instance, a Court of Appeal and a Registry. The Court of First Instance will be composed of a central division, with seat in Paris and two sections in London and Munich, and of several local and regional divisions. The Court of Appeal will be located in Luxemburg.
The Unitary Patent System is expected to enter into force in the beginning of 2014 after at least 13 participating Member States have ratified the treaty establishing the UPC.