The new EU unitary patent - Q&A 


After over 30 years of trying, Parliament and the Council have agreed on how to create an EU-wide patent regime to protect inventions better, cut costs and boost competitiveness. This Q&A paper details how the new regime will work, and how it will improve on the current one. It also shows how Parliament helped to shape the regime and tailor it to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The idea of a unitary patent valid throughout the European Economic Community was already being aired when it was founded in 1957. A "unified Community patent" was to be created by the Munich Convention in 1973, but the agreement never entered into force. After another unsuccessful attempt was the Luxembourg Agreement of 1989. In 1997, the European Commission published a Green Paper on the "Community patent", followed by a proposal in 2000. A revised proposal was then put forward in 2004, but sunk by disagreement on language issues. The unitary patent proposal was tabled in 2011.

The patent "package"

The European patent with unitary effect relies upon three separate pieces of legislation (unitary patent, language regime and unified patent court), drawn up via three different procedures. Parliament's representatives negotiated the three acts together, as a package, with the Council of Ministers and the European Commission.

The first piece of legislation is a regulation setting up a unitary patent protection system. This was prepared using the procedure for co-decision by the Council and Parliament. Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE) is the MEP responsible.

The regime for translating EU patents comes under the consultation procedure (i.e. Parliament is consulted). The lead MEP is Raffaele Baldassarre (EPP, IT).

Finally, a unified patent court is to be created through an international agreement among EU member states participating in the procedure. Parliament's non-legislative resolution on this agreement was drafted by Legal Affairs Committee Chair Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE).

Parliament negotiated the three acts as a package, so as to give its input on all issues.