It is the system by which a European patent may have unitary effects in the 26 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 will not require translations and 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 has, for the time being, decided to remain on the sidelines does not exclude in any case the possibility that Spanish holders may in due course benefit from the option of protecting their patents via the unitary patent, nor that they may face liabilities 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 instrument of ratification has been deposited (as of March 2019 it has been ratified by 16 countries out of the 13 necessary, in the absence of the necessary participation of Germany).
The United Kingdom’s decision in 2016 to leave the European Union (despite having subsequently ratified the Unitary Patent package) and an appeal on the unitary patent, pending before the German Constitutional Court, have increased the uncertainty regarding the entry into force of the unitary patent system, which was planned for the beginning of 2017.