What does ratification mean for territorial coverage UP?

June 17, 2017

Even though 25 out of 28 EU member states signed for participation in the Unitary Patent system in 2013, the ratification process is a much more gradual matter. The individual, successive ratification of countries has important consequences for the territorial coverage of the UP.

When 13 countries, amongst which at least Germany, France and England, have ratified the treaty it can go into effect within these countries. Anyone obtaining a Unitary Patent from that moment onwards will effectively have a patent that covers the countries that have ratified at the moment the unitary effect is registered for.

The successive ratification of the treaty most realistically means that the territorial coverage of the UP will continuously change for at least the first decade. The territorial coverage of a UP will however stay the same for their entire lifetime, irrespective of any subsequent ratifications by other countries. In other words, even though the absolute territorial coverage of the UP may change over time, the coverage of specific patents with unitary effect will remain the same from the moment of registration.

Hence, the date of registration for unitary effect is a strategic one. Until all countries have ratified, the decision to apply for unitary effect or not will depend on the countries that have ratified at that point in time. When it comes to cost and coverage, a new cost-benefit analysis will have to be made for each individual application.

If a country is about to ratify, it can be useful to wait applying for unitary effect until this has passed, to increase the coverage, and value, of the patent.

An overview of which countries have ratified when, can be found on the website of the European Council.