It is the system by which a European patent may have unitary effects in the 25 member states of the European Union that are signatories to the Unitary Patent package (the Unitary Patent Regulation and the Unified Court Agreement). The system, which is designed as an alternative to the complex system of validations and intended to limit translation costs, provides for the creation of a Unified Patent Court, a specialised court with exclusive jurisdiction over European patents and unitary European patents.
The fact that Spain, for the time being, has decided to remain on the sidelines does not in any way exclude the possibility that holders of Spanish origin may in due course benefit from the option of protecting their patents via the unitary patent, nor that they may face liability before the Unified Patent Court for possible infringements of these patents in the signatory countries.
The new system will enter into force once the last of the 13 required instruments of ratification has been deposited, provided that these include those of France, Italy (both already deposited) and Germany, following withdrawal of the United Kingdom’s instrument in 2018.
As at January 2021, Germany has already completed the parliamentary procedures for ratification of the system, although two appeals to the German Constitutional Court are now pending.
The European Commission expects the system to be operational by 2022, subject to the outcome of these appeals.