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Unified Patent Court
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What is the role of the UPC?

The UPC or ‘Unified patent court’ is an international court, being established according to the ‘Agreement on a Unified Patent Court’ by the participating European Union Member States. Once it becomes operational its primary goal is not only to deal with infringements upon and the validity of unitary patents, but also to with the existing European patents, pending patent applications, and ‘Supplementary Protection Certificates’. The UPC will comprise a court of first instance, an arbitration and mediation centre, and also a common registry. The court of first instance will have a central division in Paris, and then also thematic sections in Germany, Italy, and Sweden (Nordic-Baltic regional division). The court of appeal will be based in Luxembourg. There is an opportunity still remaining for the participating states either to set up a local division or to join together with one or more of the other participating states to form a regional division (up to this point a pan-Baltic-Nordic division has already existed, with its headquarters at Stockholm in Sweden).

As already mentioned, the ‘Unitary Patent Court’ will have jurisdiction both over unitary and European patents. However, during a transition period which covers seven years, patent owners will have an opportunity to ‘opt-out’ their European patents from the jurisdiction of the ‘Unified Patent Court’ to remain within the jurisdiction of a specific national court within each EU member state (just as is the case today). Despite this, any unitary patents cannot be ‘opted-out’ from the jurisdiction of the ‘Unitary Patent Court’.

 

The ‘Unitary Patent Court’ will make a huge impact on legal proceedings where these involve patents as we understand the process today. It will make the process of undertaking litigation much more cost-effective and rapid, as well as providing Europe-wide legal coverage.

Why use the UPC?

As has already been mentioned, the ‘Unified Patent Court’ will be a more cost-effective, Europe-wide form of option when it comes to having to launch litigation procedures. It is expected that court proceedings will be initiated much faster, with it being expected that a period of twelve months may be required to get to the court proceedings stage, while the proceedings themselves should typically take only a single day to be concluded.
What’s more, following the entry into force of the ‘Agreement on a Unified Patent Court’, the applicant will not be required to apply to all of the courts of the European Union member states in order to be able to protect their rights where these may have been violated in regard to patents, which means that the UPC will act as a single court. With that in mind, once a patent (whether unitary or European and which has not undergone the opting-out process) is revoked by the ‘Unitary Patent Court’, it will also automatically be revoked in any European member states which are participating in the UPC agreement.
It is worth mentioning that the UPC will provide more robust decisions thanks to its more standardised practices which will be shared across all its divisions.

Conclusions

Although there is still considerable uncertainty about the entry into force of the ‘Agreement on a Unitary Patent Court’, it is already clear that the UPC, as a unified pan-European patent litigation court with professional judges heading it who specialise in patent law, will greatly facilitate patent litigation, reduce the costs incurred for all parties, and reduce litigation time. In addition, UPC court rulings will automatically be valid in all European Union member states which are participating in the UPC agreement. In any case, the establishment of the ‘Unitary Patent Court’ will be of particular benefit to the creation and development of a common case law in the field of patents.

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