The Unitary Patent turns one

It has been a year from the start of the European Unitary Patent system which brought many important innovations in the world of patent protection.

The new unitary patent system, which includes the European unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court, was introduced on June 1, 2023 when the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) entered into force.

The European Patent with unitary effect, or unitary patent, – granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) – allows to obtain with a single application patent protection in the EU Member States which ratified the Agreement on UPC, 17 at the moment.

Together with the unitary patent, on June 1, 2023 entered into force the Unified Patent Court (UPC), a supranational court with exclusive jurisdiction with respect to:

  • European Patent with unitary effect
  • “Classic” European Patent that did not apply for the “opt-out”.
  • Complementary protection certificates.

The Unified Patent Court, divided in many local and central seats, comprises a central Division in Paris with a detached section in Munich to which was added the one in Milan, established by the UPC Administrative Committee with a decision issued on June 26, 2023 and that became operational on June 27, 2024.

In particular, the section in Milan will deal with cases relating to class A “Human Necessities” of the international classification of patents (IPC), without complementary protection certificates.

5.4% of unitary patents is Italian

By an interactive dashboard constantly updated, EPO has disclosed very interesting data regarding the first year of the new unitary patent system.

Based on EPO’s data, in only a year (data updated up to July 2, 2024) of the 30,425 applications received 29,671 unitary patents have been registered.

Not just Europe, but the rest of the world has shown interest towards this new system.

The country that has filed the highest number of unitary patent applications is Germany, with 5,740 filed applications, followed by the United States of America with 4,887 applications, France, with 2,107 applications, China with 1,679 filed applications and Switzerland with 1,672 unitary patent applications.

Italy is at sixth place, with 1,624 applications, 5.4% of all unitary patents requested, showing to have begun to take in and appreciate the new system.

56.4% of unitary patent applications comes from big companies, whilst 35.5% of application comes from small and medium enterprises. The remaining 7.6% of patent applications comes from universities and research organizations.

With regard to the most involved fields, the first three positions are occupied by applications related to medical technologies, with 12%, the civil engineering field with 5,7% and the measurement field with 5,4%.

In a press release, EPO president António Campinos, celebrated the first year of the new system and its results stating: “Some technology startups are pushing innovation beyond what we thought is possible. At the European Patent Office, we want to be maximising the protection we afford them, whilst minimising the barriers and burdens they face, both in terms of costs and administration. The Unitary Patent is a huge step forward in both these aspects.”


Giulia Tibo