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The Unitary Patent Program: A Year of Success and Challenges

14 / 6 / 2024

The European Patent Office (EPO) has marked the first anniversary of the unitary patent system, which began on June 1, 2023. Over the past year, the EPO registered more than 27,500 unitary patents, accounting for about 25% of all European patents granted in that time. The Unified Patent Court (UPC), which also began operations a year ago, has handled 373 cases, though technical problems have posed challenges.


European entities led the charge in securing unitary patents, with 64.2% of all unitary patents issued to entities within the 39 contracting states of the EPO. Although the unitary patents are only effective in 17 EU countries currently, there are ongoing efforts to expand coverage across all EU member states. Outside of Europe, U.S. companies were the second-largest group of applicants, securing 16.1% of unitary patents. Asian companies from China, Japan, and South Korea followed, securing 6%, 3.8%, and 3.3% respectively.

A notable 35.5% of unitary patents granted to European entities were secured by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by the end of 2023. This statistic highlights the program’s role in aiding SMEs to attract venture capital. Large enterprises obtained 56.9% of unitary patents, while universities and public research organizations secured 7.6%.

Medical technology was the most common area for unitary patents, making up 12.1% of all registrations. The EPO registered 3,429 unitary patents for medical technologies, far outpacing other fields such as civil engineering, measurement, transport, and electrical machinery.

As for the UPC, it faced significant technical issues with its case management system (CMS). Problems were evident even before the court became operational, causing delays and complications in case processing.

Overall, the first year of the unitary patent program has been marked by strong participation and significant registrations, especially from European SMEs, despite some technical challenges at the UPC.

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