Romania joins the Unified Patent Court: A milestone for the European Patent System

On 31 May 2024, Romania officially ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPCA), paving the way for a significant expansion of the European Patent System. From 1 September 2024, Romania will be the 18th member state to fall under the jurisdiction of the Unified Patent Court (UPC). This marks an important milestone in the harmonisation of patent protection within the European Union.

Background of the UPCA

The Unified Patent Court came into force on 1 June 2023 and has since provided a specialised and efficient system for patent litigation at European level. This court has exclusive jurisdiction over classical European patents and European patents with unitary effect (so-called Unitary Patents). It was established to overcome the fragmentation of patent systems in Europe and to create a harmonised legal framework.

The significance of Romania's accession

Romania's ratification of the UPCA extends the territorial coverage of Unitary Patents to a total of 18 EU member states. This means that patents registered from 1 September 2024 will also be valid in Romania. This extension is particularly important as the geographical scope of a Unitary Patent is fixed for its entire lifetime and subsequent accessions of other states will not have retroactive validity for patents already granted.

Effects on patent applicants

In order to give patent applicants the opportunity to benefit from the extended territorial coverage, the European Patent Office (EPO) published a notice on 5 June 2024. This allows applicants to delay the registration of the unitary effect of their patents. In this way, they can ensure that their patents are also valid in Romania when they are registered from 1 September 2024.

Future of the UPC

The UPC remains a dynamic system that can continue to grow. Six EU member states that have signed but not yet ratified the UPCA (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland and Slovakia) could join at any time. In addition, the three-member states that have not yet signed the UPCA (Croatia, Poland and Spain) could also join. Each additional accession strengthens Europe's position as an attractive location for innovation and patent protection.

Romania's accession to the Unified Patent Court is a significant step towards a more integrated and effective patent system in Europe. It demonstrates the continued commitment of EU member states to improve intellectual property protection and promote innovation.

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