The European Patent is not a new concept; the idea has been around since 1975 when nine European Member States signed the European Patent Convention (EPC). The idea was not successful and neither was the agreement succeeding it fourteen years later which was not ratified by all Member States.
In 2012, the European Parliament approved legislation for the Unitary European Patent (UEP), being EU Regulation 1260/2013, and the Unified Patent Court (UPC), EU Regulation 1260/2012. Malta signed the UPC agreement on 19 February 2013.
European Council Herman Van Rompuy, remarked that: “The Unitary Patent marks the end of a 40-year odyssey and opens new horizons for European entrepreneurs.” Once the system is in place, a holder of a European Patent may request that the patent is registered as a UEP, giving the advantage that the patent would automatically be valid in all EU Member States participating in the UEP.
The UPC will serve as a single court having exclusive jurisdiction on patent issues, including, infringement, revocation, declarations of non-infringement and the establishment of damages. Courts of first instance shall have their seat in London, Paris, and Munich and branches may be set up in any Member State. The court of appeal shall have seat in Luxembourg.
With respect to European patents registered in countries for which the UEP agreement is applicable, patent holders will have an option, during the seven year transition period from ratification of the agreement, to bring cases before national courts, hence opting out of the UPC system, or to initiate proceedings before the UPC.