A Unified Patent Court System

Authors: Renata Anduziene, Patent consultant at METIDA, and Dr. Jacekas Antulisan Associated Partner in METIDA, the Head of Patent Division

EU is currently undergoing a development of a new unified European patent system. One of its core elements is a Unified Patent Court (UPC), which is going to be shared between Paris, Munich and London. The court will be valid across 25 countries that agreed on the creation of the unified European patent system and will be an official organ of their national court structure. The UPC will have an exclusive competence over cases related to EU patents.

The system of the UPC will comprise a Court of First Instance and a Registry. The Court of First Instance will consist of local, regional and central divisions. Unless it is requested, participating Member States are not obliged to establish any regional or local units of the UPC.

All plans to create the unified European patent system had been stopped for a while, until July 2012 when EU agreed on the location of central division of the Court of the first Instance of UPC. It has been decided that its central division along with the office of the President of the Court of the First Instance will be based in Paris and its subdivisions will be located in Munich and London. The latter will handle patents related to pharmaceutical industry and life sciences, whereas the former will deal with patents related to mechanical engineering, lighting and thermal engineering. As for an office of a Court of Appeals, it would be positioned in Luxembourg.

The Agreement on the UPC also comments on the provisions of the establishment of a mediation and arbitration centre. The centre will be split between Lisbon and Ljubljana. The centre would encourage patent holders to start mediation or arbitration to settle patent related disputes that occur in the territory of the participating Member Countries. Yet, the centre is not entitled to cancel or restrict the rights of patents.

After many years of cogitation and negotiations, 25 participating Member States have finally found a cheap and effective way to protect a patent in the whole Europe. The unified patent system is expected to reduce some costs caused by patent related disputes. For example, the European Commission estimates, that due to the UPC, litigation expenses could be annually reduced to 289,000,000 €. Probably these costs of the UPC would be lower than of the USA courts.

However, the UPC will not start working this year, no matter how many questions related to unified patent system have been tackled. The Agreement of the UPC is expected to come into force either on the 1st or on the 4th of January in 2014 if at least 13 participating Member States of the convention provide the Secretary General of the Council of the EU with an instrument of ratification (three of them must be those which dominated in the registration of patents before settling up the Agreement) or when the changes of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 related to unified patent system become effective. Patentees will be able to initiate proceedings related to the infringement of patents in competent national courts for the duration of the transition period extended by seven years.

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