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The long-awaited launch of the unitary patent system will mark the beginning of a new era for intellectual property in Europe

How will the unitary patent system simplify and improve the European patent system for the benefit of its users? This was the focus of today's event organised by the Slovenian Intellectual Property Office, the European Patent Office and the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for companies and interested professionals. The system is due to enter into force in April next year.

On this occasion, the President of the European Patent Office, António Campinos, visited Slovenia for the first time and met with the Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Matjaž Han, before the event. They discussed the new unitary patent system as an important milestone for the European economy. "I am pleased that today's event and the first visit of the current President of the European Patent Office coincide with the 20th anniversary of Slovenia's membership in the European Patent Organisation. The Slovenian economy is export-oriented and closely integrated into the European economy. Slovenian companies will therefore only be able to remain or become competitive and, as such, an important partner for international economic players through innovation and proper protection of their intellectual property. The unitary patent system is an important step towards strengthening the single European market and increasing competitiveness on the global market," said Minister Han.

Today's presentation of the new unitary patent system was the first in a series of presentations in the participating countries. The Director of the Slovenian Intellectual Property Office Karin Žvokelj said in her opening remarks that "a well-functioning and balanced system of intellectual property protection is essential for the development of innovation and creativity, which are among the main drivers of economic development." She pointed out that "in this context, patent protection for inventions is particularly important, as it has crucial impact on the success of the commercialisation of innovations." In her view, the unitary patent system will bring many benefits: "This system brings new possibilities to obtain unitary patent protection cheaper, faster and easier in several European countries at the same time. And the Unified Patent Court will enable patent disputes to be resolved more quickly and create a uniform case law," she added.

In his opening speech, António Campinos, President of the European Patent Office, stressed the importance of the new system for stimulating inventive activity in Europe: " The new Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court will hold the door wide open for underrepresented groups on which the future of Europe’s prosperity so largely depends. We’re doing this by strengthening and supplementing the existing centralised European patent granting system. By dismantling the bureaucratic and financial walls and giving businesses the oxygen to confidently enter the EU market.”

Of particular interest to the participants was the panel discussion in the second part of the event, where speakers discussed the benefits of the unitary patent system from the perspective of research institutions, innovative companies and intellectual property attorneys.

The unitary patent system

Currently, an invention can be protected in Europe by a national or European patent. The European Patent Office, as the central authority, examines European patent applications, saving inventors costs compared to multiple parallel national patent applications, while ensuring the high quality of the European patents granted. A granted European patent is a bundle of national patents.

A European patent with unitary effect, which is expected to enter into force in April 2023, is a European patent which, at the request of the patent proprietor and by filing a single application, can obtain unitary effect throughout the territory of the participating Member States of the European Union. This represents an attractive alternative to national certificates in the Member States participating in the new system.

The European patent with unitary effect will initially apply in 17 countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden), with the possibility of other Member States of enhanced cooperation (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia) joining later. Spain and Croatia are the only EU Member States not considering joining at this stage.