Project News

The New Unitary Patent System: Will it Support or Undermine Open Innovation?

A new discovery for the EU funded research projects

ECO2fuel is on the edge of innovation processes and its results are promising since the very beginning of the research activities. Accordingly, the partnership has started discussing about the future use of the Key Exploitable Results which is deeply connected with a clear understanding of the IP-related rights and framework. Now, extraordinary novelties are appearing on the horizon of this crucial steps to take towards use and impact and therefore, we would like to provide some useful insight deriving from our work carried out in the framework of ECO2fuel exploitation strategy.

The Unitary Patent System
The Unitary Patent System

EU proposal to streamline the rules for standard essential patents, compulsory licensing, protection certificates, and SME Fund services

The European Commission has proposed new rules with the aim of creating a more effective patent system to reduce market fragmentation of the single market, bureaucracy, and improve efficiency. These rules are designed to support companies, especially SMEs, in leveraging their inventions, adopting new technologies, and contributing to the competitiveness and technological sovereignty of the European Union.

The proposed rules will complement the existing Unitary Patent System (which entered in force on the 1st June 2023, becoming the single most important development of the European patent system in the last fifty years. The new system introduced a European patent with unitary effect across the territories of the EU member states participating in the system and the Unified Patent Court (UPC), a new legal institution which will decide on Unitary Patents in these Member States) and they will focus on areas such as standard essential patents, compulsory licensing of patents during crisis situations, and the revision of legislation regarding supplementary protection certificates.

By implementing new regulations, Brussels aims to create a more transparent, effective and future-proof intellectual property rights (IPR) framework in an economic environment where intangible assets such as brands, designs, patents and data are gaining ever greater importance in the knowledge economy.

Main objectives of the proposed regulation

According to the proposal[1], the overall objectives of this initiative are to:

  • Ensure that end users, including small businesses and EU consumers benefit from products based on the latest standardised technologies;
    • Make the EU attractive for standards innovation;
    • Encourage both Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) holders and implementers to innovate in the EU, make and sell products in the EU and be competitive in non-EU markets. The initiative aims to incentivise participation by European firms in the standard development process and the broad implementation of such standardised technologies.

This is the most recent action in a series of efforts concerning the SEPs and how the SEPs framework could be improved to encourage innovation while also promoting competition and satisfy consumers’ interests. In its 2020 Intellectual Property Action Plan on IP, for example, the Commission stressed the need to set the right conditions for a transparent, predictable and efficient SEPs system; more recent, in February 2022, it invited parties to express their views and experiences in order to improve such system, in particular the transparency and predictability of the licensing framework.

Nevertheless, there are also concerns about the proposed regulation from some  actors such as IP Europe and  the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO), stating that the proposed regulation, if adopted, would be detrimental to the functioning of the European innovation ecosystem and ultimately to the European consumers of technologically advanced products making the technology transfer more difficult, increasing costs for IP owners to participate in technical standardisation processes and SEP licensing, which would discourage RD&I actors such as universities and research and technology organisations (RTOs) from participating in the process.

To dissolve these concerns, can be useful the point of view shared by EPO President, António Campinos: “This is an exciting moment for Europe as we strongly press ahead with the creation of a unified market for innovation and technology. The Unitary Patent system will not only simplify and strengthen the legal protection of inventions and their enforcement, but it will also foster the attractiveness of the European market for inventors and investors alike. As the system ramps up, we expect to see a 2% increase in annual trade flows and a 15% boost in foreign direct investment in high-tech sectors in members states because of this change. The Unitary Patent system will be a game changer, sending strong signals to the world that Europe remains a top spot for innovation and economic growth”.

We have no information to understand if the achievements in the last months will be the real game changer for the European R&D sector. The goal is to ease the process for translating the research results in use, enabling strong impact in the EU. ECO2fuel is completely involved in successfully confronting this challenge, working in this new framework. 

* EPO is the European Patent Office

Source:; WIPO Statistics Database, February 2023

[1] COM(2023)232 – Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on standard essential patents and amending Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 | Accessed on 12.06.2023