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Unitary Patent System Expands: Romania Becomes the 18th UPC Member State

June 2024

by Ana-Maria Baciu and Ileana Nicolescu

On its first anniversary, the Unitary Patent system also celebrated its first expansion, with Romania depositing its instrument of ratification of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPCA) on 31 May 2024. This expansion, to become effective as of 1 September 2024, brings the total number of participating EU Member States to 18, covering an additional market of nearly 19 million people.

As a direct consequence, European patents with unitary effect (Unitary Patents) granted after 1 September 2024 will automatically cover Romania. However, the protection of Unitary Patents already registered before 1 September 2024 will not expand to include Romania. That is because existing Unitary Patents continue to have the same coverage for their entire lifetime as the one at the registration of unitary effect, irrespective of any subsequent ratifications of the UPCA.

During this period up to 1 September 2024, applicants that are currently at the allowance/grant stage with their Unitary Patents may nevertheless include Romania in the Unitary Patent coverage since the European Patent Office has announced that it will accept express requests to postpone the registration of unitary effect until 1 September 2024 or shortly after the date on which Romania’s ratification of the UPCA takes effect.

As outlined by the Romanian government in the explanatory memorandum to the ratification act, joining the Unitary Patent system is an important step for Romania, as it not only fulfils its obligations as an EU Member State, but also unlocks the benefits of a simple and cost-effective post-grant system which will stimulate innovation among Romanian businesses, research institutions and universities.

Romania also stands to gain significant advantages from the Unitary Patent system particularly in the field of patent litigation. The Unified Patent Court’s multinational panels, composed of both legally and technically qualified judges, effectively address the challenge posed by Romania’s lack of specialized patent courts. Ultimately, the Unified Patent Court having jurisdiction over the disputes concerning infringement and validity of the Unitary Patents covering Romania will ensure a higher level of expertise and swiftness in adjudicating patent disputes, which will benefit both rights holders seeking to enforce their patents and defendants in such cases.

The Unitary Patent system’s successful first year, with a quarter of granted European patents becoming Unitary Patents alongside this first expansion since its launch on 1 June 2023, signals strong trust in the system. While the future relationship with the existing European patent system remains to be seen, inventors now have a more efficient and unified option for protecting their inventions across a significant portion of Europe. This development is expected to boost investment in research, ultimately fostering a more vibrant innovation landscape in Europe.

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