See the most important milestones in the timeline for the Unitary Patent and UPC initiative, leading up to the signing of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court in early 2013. For more recent developments after that point in time, please see our News section.
The basic concept that the free movement of goods should not be hindered by territorially limited intellectual property rights exists from the beginning of the European Economic Community (EEC).
The European patent system's founding treaty, the European Patent Convention (EPC), is signed on 5 October 1973 in Munich.
A first initiative for a Community Patent Convention fails primarily due to controversies between the EU Member States about jurisdiction and languages.
A second attempt to create a Community Patent is pursued and leads to a treaty signed by a number of states. The Treaty however never entered into force.
A draft European Patent Litigation Agreement is prepared for the purpose of patent litigation by contracting states of the European Patent Convention (several of whom were not EU Member States).
The European Commission decides that a Regulation could be more effective than a Treaty to overcome Member States' reluctance to subscribe to the System; the idea of relying on the EPO languages is devised.
Communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament about "Enhancing the patent system in Europe".
A renewed initiative proposes the creation of a new "European Patent with unitary effect" (or "Unitary Patent"). However, the 27 EU Member States fail to reach a unanimous agreement on the proposed trilingual regime (English, French and German) .
25 EU Member States decide to move forward on this project on the basis of the EU's "enhanced cooperation" procedure provided for in Art. 20 TEU.
The European Commission as well as the European Parliament approve of the plan to use the procedure of enhanced cooperation for the creation of a unitary patent in early 2011 and the EU Council authorizes the enhanced cooperation on 10 March 2011 (decision 2011/167/EU). On 13 April 2011 the Commission adopts a proposal for a Council Regulation implementing enhanced cooperation.
Spain and Italy strongly oppose these proposals and file complaints with the Court of Justice of the European Union (Cases C-274/11 and C-295/11). Spain, supported by Italy, seeks annulment of the Council Decision 2011/167/EU authorizing the use of the enhanced cooperation procedure to create the unitary patent. The CJEU eventually dismisses this first challenge on 16 April 2013. With a second action Spain then seeks the annulment of the UPR and the UPTR (Cases C-146/13 and C-147/13) but these claims are eventually also dismissed by the CJEU on 5 May 2015. For further information on these challenges, please see the judgments in our Resources section.
During the European Council of 28–29 June 2012, agreement is reached on the provisions between the 25 EU Member States and the necessary EU legislation is approved by the European Parliament on 11 December 2012. On 17 December 2012, the Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection and the Regulation (EU) No 1260/2012 on the applicable translation arrangements are adopted by 25 EU Member States. In 2015, Italy decides to also participate in the enhanced cooperation.
The enhanced cooperation measures enter into force in January 2013, and will apply to a participating Member State in the enhanced cooperation from the date when the related Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPCA) enters into force for the state. On 19 February 2013, the UPCA is signed by 24 EU Member States (without Spain and Poland), while Bulgaria signs as the 25th participating EU Member State on 5 March 2013. So far also Croatia has not signed the UPCA after joining the European Union in July 2013.