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UPC ‘single most important reform’ in EU patent system
Marina Donohoe (Enterprise Ireland), Minister Neale Richmond, Maureen Daly (Beauchamps LLP) and Raymond Hegarty (Intaval)

28 Apr 2023 / IP Print

UPC ‘most important reform’ in EU patent system

The new Unitary Patent System will offer Irish inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers and businesses a new level of protection and significant cash savings, according to Neale Richmond (Minister of State for Employment Affairs and Retail Business).

Speaking at an Enterprise Ireland 'Women in Business IP' forum, the minister said that a local Unitary Patent Court (UPC) in Ireland would offer users an accessible, cost-effective and more efficient option for broad patent protection and dispute settlement across Europe.

Access to local court

"Businesses in other participating member states will have access to their own local court, and we want to ensure that our companies have that same access here in Ireland," he added.

This is why the Government reaffirmed its commitment in June 2022 to participate in the Unitary Patent System and the UPC, and to hold a referendum to enable Ireland to do so.  

"This will help Irish business, particularly micro and small businesses, increase their European footprint, allowing them to expand their exports to the EU, confident in their IP protection.

"Irish participation in the new Unitary Patent System is critical to ensure that the Irish IP regime keeps pace with that of other economies, and our businesses have access to the same support frameworks as their competitors in Europe," the minister said.

The constitutional referendum, the timing of which is yet to be determined by Government, is required to enable the transfer of jurisdictional powers from Irish courts to the new international court.

'Huge value'

"A unitary patent covering most of the single market would be of huge value to our innovative SMEs and start-ups with scalable potential. It will also enhance Ireland's attractiveness for FDI," the minister said at the 26 April event, which was organised to coincide with  World Intellectual Property Day.

Also speaking at the event was solicitor Maureen Daly (partner, Beauchamps LLP) and Marlene Connolly (general counsel and chief legal officer of Nuritas).

Currently, individuals with an invention or idea can apply for an Irish national patent with the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland (IPOI) in Kilkenny, which provides protection here. 

However, there is no single European patent valid in all EU member states. Instead, individual patents must be held in each country where the patent is to be used, which can be expensive and time consuming.

June landmark

The EU Unified Patent System, which will come fully into force on 1 June, will mark the single most important reform in the history of the European patent system since its creation in 1973.

The new system will enable uniform patent protection across all participating EU member states by way of one single patent application. 

The new system will also provide a centralised platform for legal cases before the Unified Patent Court.

A total of 17 member states have ratified the agreement. More countries are expected to join in the future. Those that have signed up but have yet to ratify are: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, and Slovakia. 

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