The existing patent system in Europe

How the European Patent Office issues a “bundle” of national patents

The European Patent Convention (EPC) provides a legal framework for the centralised grant and opposition of European patents by and before the European Patent Office (EPO) for 38 Contracting States (the 28 Member States of the European Union (EU), plus 10 non-EU states, as shown in the landscape tool). On grant, the European patent (EP) splits into a bundle of national patents. The national patents are individually validated (typically with translations required) and individual renewal fees are payable.

The national patents that make up the granted EP are individually enforceable, or subject to revocation in each jurisdiction. Thus, if a patentee wants to bring infringement proceedings in multiple jurisdictions, it is required to litigate multiple national patents. Each national patent that makes up the EP is a separate piece of property that is governed by the national law, so any assignment must be completed separately in each state.

This fragmented EP system will still be available when the Unitary Patent (UP) and Unified Patent Court (UPC) come into effect (likely in 2019 at the earliest). EPs will be used in addition to UPs, in particular to get protection in states that are not joining the UP system (e.g. Spain, Poland, Switzerland and Turkey). The UP will be granted by the EPO and then litigated at the UPC.  The UP is available only for applications granted at the EPO after the UP agreement comes into force (likely in 2019 at the earliest).  All other cases granted by the EPO are part of the existing EP system and, unless opted out, will fall under the jurisdiction of the UPC when it enters into force.