Unitary Patent & Unified Patent Court

An introduction to the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court

AA Thornton IP LLP combines the vast experience of its highly rated patent attorneys with a high-performing IP litigation team, and is helping clients navigate the new options provided by the Unified Patent Court and Unitary Patent. A basic introduction is provided below.

We welcome UPC and UP enquiries via email to upc@aathornton.com or via your usual AA Thornton contacts.

AA Thornton IP LLP was ranked by Legal500 as a “Top Tier” patent firm in 2021 and 2022. The patent attorney teams are led by Adrian Bennett, Mike Jennings and Craig Turner. Our IP litigation team is led by Geoff Hussey  and Daniel Byrne.

Legal500 testimonials:

“The ‘excellent’ A.A. Thornton & Co. ‘goes the extra mile to provide outstanding customer service’ and has expertise in both contentious and non-contentious matters.”

“The team at AA Thornton provides an ‘overall level of service that is top class’, with good industry knowledge.”

“AA Thornton maintains its position among the elite patent practices in the nation, largely based on its frequent successful representation of individuals, academic institutions, SMEs and multinational corporations.”

Europe’s Unified Patent Court and Unitary Patent system has begun operation

As has been widely reported, significant changes to Europe’s patent system have taken place, with a new specialist patent court system (the Unified Patent Court or UPC) and a new option for unitary patent protection covering many of the states of the European Union.

The UPC has become available to handle patent infringement and revocation actions from 1 June 2023.

The milestones leading up to this landmark event are outlined HERE


Although the UPC has now begun operating, and will have jurisdiction over existing European patents that have not been “opted out” of the UPC, it is still possible to take action to opt out such patents as long as they are not already the subject of proceedings in the new court. We recommend that all owners of unexpired European patents (or their patent portfolio managers) take the following actions if they have not already done so.

  1. Identify European patents and pending applications that may need to be opted out of the UPC.
  2. Check ownership of each European patent and application that may be opted out, including checking this for each contracting state of the European Patent Convention in which the European patent remains in force or which was designated in an application that is still pending (not only UPC states), since opt outs can only be registered at the request of all of the owners of the patent.
  3. Check any licence obligations that relate to jurisdiction.
  4. Make a conscious decision regarding which European patents (and applications) should be within the jurisdiction of the UPC and which should be “opted out” of the jurisdiction of the UPC, and instruct a reliable IP services provider to handle the registration of opt outs.

Going forward, applicants of European patent applications that have been approved for grant by the EPO should consider whether to opt out such applications, before they proceed to grant.

Please contact AA Thornton’s team of European Patent Attorneys and IP litigation experts if you have any questions regarding:

  • The Unified Patent Court of the Unitary Patent, and their relevance to your business;
  • The option to protect some or all of your existing European patents from revocation in the new court, by applying to opt them out of the jurisdiction of the UPC;
  • Withdrawal of opt outs;
  • Patent enforcement in the new court; and
  • Applying for revocation in the new court.

We will be happy to discuss which options are worth considering for your business.

We will continue monitoring legal developments and we will update our website when there are significant UPC and UP updates as the new system begins its operation.

AA Thornton IP LLP – 1 June 2023

Unitary Patent (UP)

The unitary patent came into effect on 1 June 2023, at the same time as the entry into force of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. Applicants can now obtain a UP via a conventional European patent application filed at the European Patent Office (EPO). This is done at the grant stage, where applicants now have the option of requesting that their patent becomes a ‘European patent with unitary effect’ covering certain EU states which are participating in the UP system, in addition to the bundle of national patents which is obtained when validating a conventional European patent.


Find out more.

Unified Patent Court (UPC)

The European Union has worked for several years on the establishment of a common patent court which has been created on the basis of an international treaty. The UPC Agreement entered into force on 1 June 2023.

As of June 2023, 17 EU states have ratified the UPC Agreement and are participating in the new court system from its start date, although further countries are expected to join in due course.

Find out more.