Everything that can be invented has been invented.
-Charles H. Duell
In today’s interconnected, rapidly changing and evolving global economy, innovation has become the source of progress and economic growth. Intellectual property rights (hereinafter “IPR”) in this innovative path play a considerable role. In the IPR world, patents play a pivotal role and have everyone in a choke-hold for providing a safe space to foster innovation, protect the works of all the artists, and maintain their integrity. However, navigating the intricate web of patent systems across different countries can be complex and challenging for inventors and businesses. Hence, the new concept of implementing a unitary patent system in G20 countries has emerged as a promising solution to this complex issue.
The G20 countries comprise some of the world’s largest economies, which are at the forefront of technological advancement and new and never seen before innovations. Harmonizing the patent system and making it easier and accessible within these countries present huge and significant opportunities to streamline the patent process, enhance collaboration, and promote innovation on a global scale to make it more accessible and user-friendly.
THE CURRENT LANDSCAPE
The existing patent landscape is quite complex with a lot of patchwork consisting of national systems, each with specific rules, regulations, and procedures. When inventors and companies want to seek patent protection in multiple countries, they must engage in very time-consuming, costly, and often complex legal processes. Furthermore, each national patent office has to be navigated, pay fees, and adhere to regulations. This consumes significant resources and leads to higher inconsistencies and inefficiencies in patent protection.
WHAT IS A UNITARY PATENT SYSTEM?
According to the European Commission, “The unitary patent is a legal title that provides uniform protection across all participating countries on a one-stop-shop basis, providing huge cost advantages and reducing administrative burdens. The Unified Patent Court offers a single, specialized patent jurisdiction”. In simpler and layman’s terms, the unitary patent simplifies the process of getting patent protection across multiple European countries, saving time and money while reducing the headache of a lot of paperwork. Furthermore, the Unified Patent Court also offers a single and specialized legal system to handle patent disputes, ensuring that patent-related issues are resolved uniformly and effectively. Put together, these mechanisms make it easier for inventors and businesses to protect their inventions and resolve patent disputes in Europe.
VISION OF THE UNITARY PATENT SYSTEM (UPS)
A unitary patent system represents a paradigm shift and a massive revolution in how patents are granted and enforced. Furthermore, under this system, inventors and businesses would have the option to file a single patent application that covers all the G20 countries participating in the system, thus preventing the creators from going through the hassle of getting their invention patented in multiple countries. Hence, simplifying and streamlining the patent process in several ways.
Cost Efficiency: Filing and maintaining multiple patents in different countries can be financially burdensome for the creators, especially for small companies and individual inventors who need more stable financial resources to fund the process. To eliminate this, a unitary patent system reduces costs by consolidating the application process, eliminating the need for separate filings and maintenance fees in each country.
Simplified Procedures: A single official application submitted in only one language would replace the oppressive need to navigate the complexities of various national patent offices of different countries, saving the applicants from a massive load of legal frameworks involved in multiple jurisdictions with multiple languages. This simplification will reduce the likelihood of errors and delays, thus making the patenting process much more efficient and reliable.
Broader Protection: A unitary and uniform patent would provide comprehensive protection to all the participating G20 countries. This broad coverage would enhance the attractiveness of patent protection and further incentivize (on a vast scale) applicants, especially research scientists and esteemed universities to invest in R&D, thereby contributing towards the technological and economic growth of the nation overall. This system would allow the applicants to enjoy their patented rights and attached royalties in a more uniform and simplified fashion. In such a system, the applicants would fear less for the infringement of their patents and IPR rights violations.
Legal Certainty: A Unitary Patent System (UPS) would provide substantial legal certainty to all the patent applicants because patent disputes can be often costly and time-consuming and no one wants a legal battle, especially in a different country. UPS offers a unified legal framework for resolving disputes arising due to patent infringement and reducing the complexity and uncertainty of cross-border litigation.
Promotion of Innovation: The reduced costs and simplified procedures would create a compelling incentive for companies as well as individuals to invest in innovation and explore the potential of a particular creation since you never realize the ultimate potential of any project until you have tried and tested all the waters. This will, in turn, further drive economic growth and technological advancement to a greater height.
Implementing a Unitary Patent System (UPS) in G20 countries, while being promising in streamlining the patent process and fostering innovation, would face several legal challenges. These challenges emerge from the need to harmonize the patent laws and regulations across different countries with varying legal traditions and systems. Some of the key legal challenges that would need to be addressed are:
National Sovereignty and Legal Harmonization: G20 countries have quite a bit different and unique legal systems and traditions, which can lead to conflicts in harmonizing patent laws. Furthermore, ensuring that the unitary patent system respects the sovereignty of each and every nation while simultaneously establishing common grounds between them is a complex legal challenge. Hence, finding standard feet on issues such as patent eligibility, infringement, and remedies would require vast amounts of negotiation and compromise.
Language Barriers: Language diversity among G20 countries is one of the main hurdles. The unitary patent system to navigate this issue would likely need to assign a common language for patent applications and inquire more about which language to choose and further how to ensure fair access for all countries. Language-related challenges could additionally also arise in the future during procedures like patent prosecution, translation, opposition, and legal proceedings.
Enforcement and Jurisdiction: Jurisdiction plays a pivotal role in getting an accurate legal framework; hence, determining which court(s) should be provided jurisdiction over the incoming patent disputes and how judgments should be enforced across borders and reach every individual or applicant is a complex legal issue. Differences that would exist between all the countries in legal procedures, remedies, and the enforcement of intellectual property rights could lead to a considerable number of conflicts if not appropriately addressed.
Transition Period: Change is always challenging, and it’s pretty difficult to adapt to new things and forget the old traditions. Hence, transitioning from the current national patent system to a unitary one would require carefully drafted legal planning and structure. Furthermore, existing patent holders may also need to decide whether to opt into the new system and go through the process again. The mechanisms for dealing with the already existing patents and the applications that are already pending must also be established.
Cost-Sharing and Revenue Allocation: Another legal challenge can be establishing a fair system for sharing the costs of administering the unitary patent system and allocating revenues generated from fees and penalties. All the G20 Countries may have different interests and concerns about the financial aspects of such a system due to diversity, their global wealth, and the uniqueness that comes along with every country.
GLOBAL IMPACT AND COMPETITIVENESS
Implementing a unitary patent system in G20 countries that are unique and different in all ways would have many far-reaching consequences. Most importantly, it would harmonize patent standards across all the diverse nations, fostering global competitiveness on a large scale. Furthermore, a level playing field for all the inventors and businesses where they can be treated equally without anyone having an incentive over the other could attract foreign investment and talent, leading to never seen before economic growth and technological signs of progress. Also, by reducing the patent office backlogs and processing times, the system would enable inventors to secure patent protection more swiftly and effortlessly, accelerating the pace of innovation.
In conclusion, while a unitary patent system in G20 countries could bring significant benefits, it would include navigating complex legal challenges related to sovereignty, language, enforcement, transition, costs, international obligations, examination standards, and more. Successful implementation would require legal negotiations, compromises, and a commitment to harmonization among the G20 nations, which would be a great effort and initiative.
 The Unitary Patent System (no date) Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. Available at: https://single-market-economy.ec.europa.eu/industry/strategy/intellectual-property/patent-protection-eu/unitary-patent-system_en