Cost Implications of the Upcoming Unitary Patent

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The Unitary Patent is Coming!

It’s been more than a decade since the Unitary Patent started being implemented, but it’s finally close to becoming a reality. In today’s post, we thought it would be helpful to explain some of the cost differences between a Unitary Patent and a traditional EP Patent. Given the relatively new and unproven nature of the Unitary Patent, initial adoption will probably be somewhat slow, but over time, the administrative simplicity and reduced cost of the Unitary Patent are likely to be increasingly attractive options for most organizations. 

Unitary Patent Basics

There are plenty of sources of information about the Unitary Patent and the Unitary Patent Court (UPC), so we aren’t going to rehash all of the details here, but it is important to have a basic understanding of the Unitary Patent to understand the cost implications. 

Unitary Patents and traditional European Patents start down the same path: An applicant files for a European Patent with the EPO and it is processed under the EPC. Once granted, the applicant has the option to pursue the traditional route and validate the patent in a select group of member states, or opt for a Unitary Patent that will cover all member states. This is where the processes and the costs begin to differ substantially. 

Cost Savings When Obtaining Protection

EPC Validation Costs

An applicant choosing the traditional route has the flexibility of choosing the member states to validate in, but they’re also faced with an assortment of validation costs. These include the costs of filing forms at the patent offices of the validation countries and the cost of translating part of the patent specification into an official language of the country in which the patent is to be validated. The London Agreement has reduced the amount of translation required, but a number of countries still require translations of the claims and/or the description into an official language of their country. 

Costs to Obtain Unitary Patent

When compared with the traditional route, the cost to obtain a Unitary Patent can be substantially less. With the Unitary Patent, unlike the traditional route, there are no filing or translation fees. There is a transition period at the start of the Unitary Patent system which will require the filing of a single translation of the application with the EPO (either into English, or into any other official EU language depending on the language of proceedings), but even with this transitional requirement, the cost of obtaining a Unitary Patent can be much less than the traditional route. Actual savings for a rights holder will vary based on the number of member states that they are seeking coverage in, so an organization that normally only validated in a couple member states will see less savings than an organization that validated in a large number of member states. 

Renewal Cost Savings

Renewals are another area where IP rights holders can see cost savings. As with obtaining protection, the amount of potential cost savings will vary depending on the number of member states that a rights-holder is interested in. 

In an example presented on the EPO website, if a holder of a Unitary Patent maintained their patent for the full 20 years, their total renewal costs would be EUR 35,555 and they would have patent coverage across all of the member states. A comparable patent holder electing the traditional European route, validating in all member states and maintaining the patent for the full 20 years would pay EUR 160,633. As with everything related to patents, the devil is in the details. Validating in fewer countries or maintaining patents for shorter time periods can impact the savings, and there are scenarios where the traditional route is less expensive. Broadly speaking, it appears that savings start to be realized via the Unitary route if an organization plans to validate in more than 4 countries. 

Unitary Patent Renewal Fees

If you maintain your IP system’s renewal fees, below are the Unitary Patent renewal fees. 

Year Fee in Euros
2
35
3
105
4
145
5
315
6
475
7
630
8
815
9
990
10
1175
11
1460
12
1775
13
2105
14
2455
15
2830
16
3240
17
3640
18
4055
19
4455
20
4855

Additional Unitary Patent Payment and Cost Details

  • Unitary Patent Fees are paid to the EPO in Euros
  • Fees can be paid directly or via debiting a deposit account at the EPO
  • Any person can pay the fees, there is no need to use a representative

Wrap Up

It’s (very) early days with the Unitary Patent, and despite the obvious cost savings that can be realized, many of the larger organizations we work with are opting out of the process until the dust settles. Despite this, we expect adoption to ramp up over the next several years as organizations become more comfortable with some of the potential downsides of the Unitary Patent. As things evolve, we will continue to post updates. 

For more detail on the Unitary Patent, you can check out the official EPO site here. As always, if you have any questions related to the cost side of Unitary Patents (or any patents), you can always contact us at support@prokurio.com

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