Major new survey highlights importance of business access to UPC

November 30, 2022

A major new survey jointly conducted by Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, and the Association of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys (APTMA), the professional body representing Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys in Ireland, has highlighted that over three quarters (78%) of businesses said that they are likely to increase their patenting activity to protect their innovations, if Ireland were to sign up to the new Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court (UPC) system. 

The survey underpins the significant opportunity costs should Government fail to urgently support the ratification of the Unified Patent Court Agreement. A conservative estimate of the value add to the Irish economy for our participation in the UPC could be worth as much as €1.663bn per annum. As such, four out of five respondents said the referendum must be held during 2023, with almost half of all respondents indicated their preference that the referendum be held in Q1 2023.

Speaking following the publication of the report, Tríona Walshe, Chair of the UPC Committee, of APTMA, outlined: “The Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court are significant developments in the European business landscape. However, until such time as Ireland is part of the new system, Irish innovators and Irish businesses will not be able to access all of the benefits of the Unitary Patent System.  We urge Government to hold the necessary referendum at the earliest possible date to ensure that Irish businesses have the same strategic competitive advantage available under the new UPC system as those businesses in European countries which are already part of the new UPC system.

“Respondents to the survey cited that the Unitary Patent System will create a simpler, faster and more efficient mechanism for obtaining and managing patents in Europe. Respondents frequently referred to the “ease of application” to “less administration” as extremely positive aspects of the new system, eliminating the need for multiple national validations that characterise the existing system. One large indigenous company stated that the “streamlined approach to European patents” would enable “better financial decisions in relation of which projects to invest in.” 

Aidan Sweeney, Ibec Head of Enterprise & Regulatory Affairs said: “May 2024 is the absolute latest date that a referendum should be held, and even then, there could be a significant opportunity cost to Irish companies. Companies clearly recognise the urgency at stake, with 70% of respondents stated stating the referendum on Ireland’s participation in the Unified Patent Court should take place in the first half of 2023. 

“At a time of increasing economic challenges, an attractive and timely-established Local Division in Dublin will support the further expansion of the patent-intensive sectors across the country, creating jobs, benefitting SMEs, and boosting Ireland’s innovation performance. At least four out of five small and micro enterprises stated they were very likely to increase their patenting if Ireland was to participating fully the new pan-European patent system.” 

Amongst the key findings of the report:

94% of all respondents stated that their company has an IP strategy in place, indicating the increasing recognition of IP as part of the enterprise toolbox for innovation. 
89% of firms that had an IP strategy in place increased their IP activity in the past five years, and plan to increase these activities further in the coming five years. 
Approximately 80% of companies surveyed owned or licensed patents. 
Companies that don’t own or licence patents felt the current system was too expensive and that they lacked the necessary expertise. 
87% of the companies with an IP strategy in place stated they were aware of the new Unitary Patent System. 
Over three quarters (78%) of respondents indicated that they were likely to increase their patenting activity due to Ireland’s participation in the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court. 
Approximately 83% small and micro enterprises said they were very likely to increase their patenting activity on the back of the new system. 
Approximately 70% of respondents stated that the referendum ratifying the UPCA should take place in the first half of 2023. In fact, four out of five said it must be held next year, with almost half of all respondents indicated their preference to be held in Q1 2023. 
Activities to raise awareness of, and to educate companies across the Irish enterprise base on, the new Unitary Patent System will be required. 


Ibec APTMA Unitary Patent System Irish Business Survey 2022 pdf | 591.9 kb