On 11 December 2012 the European Parliament voted positively in a first reading on the EU Council's compromise proposals for two draft EU regulations on a unitary patent for Europe. The draft regulations were accepted under the EU's legislative procedure of "enhanced co-operation": With the exception of Croatia and Spain, 26 EU member states have embarked on enhanced co-operation with a view to creating unitary patent protection for their territories.
The regulations entered into force on 20 January 2013. However, they will only apply from the date of entry into force of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court.
The European patent with unitary effect ("unitary patent") will be an another option for users besides already-existing national patents and classical European patents. A unitary patent will be a European patent granted by the EPO under the provisions of the European Patent Convention to which unitary effect for the territory of the 26 participating states is given after grant, at the patentee's request. The unitary patent will thus not affect the EPO's day-to-day search, examination and granting work.
However, the EPO will take on a number of additional tasks. For example, it will administer patentees' requests for unitary effect. It will also be responsible for collecting, administering and remitting renewal fees for unitary patents and for keeping a register of unitary patents which will include legal-status information such as licences, transfers, limitation, revocation or lapse.
As regards the translation arrangements for the unitary patent, it was decided to use the EPO's tried and tested language regime based on three official languages, namely English, German or French. After grant of the European patent, no further human translations will be required if the patent holder opts for a unitary patent; high-quality machine translation will be available for the purpose of informing on the content of patents. -EPO
The unitary (European) patent is targeted to go into effect in early 2017. After going into effect there are four ways to gain patent in Europe:
(1) Filling national patent applications and maintaining granted patents in selected national patent office;
(2) Filling single European patent application in EPO; and maintaining granted patents in selected national patent office (current practice);
(3) Filling single European patent application and maintaining granted European patent in EPO (proposed future practice);
(4) Filling single European patent application in EPO; and maintaining granted patent in EPO and selected national patent office (proposed future practice).