Monday, 10 June 2013

Overview of translation requirements for the unitary patent

One of the advantages of the unitary patent is a reduction in translation requirements. Below we will give an overview of the translations you may encounter when applying for a unitary patent.

Up to grant of your patent application
Translation requirements during the application phase are the same as with current European patent applications.

This means that there is one moment during prosecution when you cannot avoid translations: when the EPO considers your application ready to be granted. You need to file translations of the claims, so that they can be published in all three official languages of the EPO, i.e., English, French and German.

Other translations may be needed depending on the situation. For example, the application text itself may need to be translated into an official language. Communications with the EPO are in an official language. Possibly, you need to translate the priority document or documentary evidence.

If you work in an official language though, the translation of the claims may be the first and only moment that you need to translate anything.

The unitary patent does not change this, and is subject to the same rules as a regular European patent. The only rule that may impact translation is that an additional reimbursement may be available for translation costs.

After grant
When the unitary patent system is in force, it will start with a 'transitory period' of at least 6 and at most 12 years.

After the transitory period is over you need only ask for unitary effect and your granted European patent becomes a unitary patent. No translations are needed.

During the transitory period you need to file one full translation. The rule is as follows:

  • If your patent was granted in French or German you need to file a full translation into English.
  • If your patent was granted in English you need to file a full translation into any other official language of the Union.

Should the unitary patent become involved in an infringement dispute a further translation may be needed.

If you need patent protection in countries that do not participate in the unitary patent you can validate your European patent just as under the old system.  National law regulates what translation is needed. For example, if you want your patent to be valid in Spain or Poland as well, you need to file a complete translation of the patent in Spanish or Polish respectively.

Suppose you application is granted by EPO with a German text, during the transitory phase. For you grant and unitary effect you need:
  • a translation of (only) the claims in French, and
  • a translation of the full granted text in English


  1. And what about translations needed for preliminary rights based on the application?

    It would be strange that you would need a translation for limited preliminary protection, and none for final protection.

    However the same strange sitation is now present wrt to the London Agreement countries.

  2. You are quite right. However, as far as I know, the possibility to file translation to obtain preliminary protection is not much used today.