Update on the Unified Patent Court (UPC)

19 December 2014

Update on the Unified Patent Court (UPC)

As 2014 draws to a close, we look at progress towards the new Unified Patent Court.

Timings

The UPC Agreement will not come into force until it has been ratified by at least 13 of its signatory states, including the UK, France and Germany. Of those three, only France has ratified so far, along with five other countries.

The Preparatory Committee has said that it would be the end of 2015 at the earliest. Even this still seems ambitious given, for example, the IT system is not expected to be up and running until towards the end of next year. However, there is the possibility of a provisional effect in accordance with the Vienna Conventional in the meantime, before the UPC officially opens its doors.

Fees

Key to any decision whether to request a European patent with unitary effect, and whether or not to opt out of the jurisdiction of the UPC, is going to be the question of fees. The EPO Select Committee is looking at various methodologies to simulate renewal fee levels and their impact on EPO income. The Committee has acknowledged that the renewal fees will have to be low enough to ensure the attractiveness of the new unitary patent, but high enough to ensure the financial sustainability of the European Patent Organisation and the national patent offices.

A new draft of proposals on costs generally, and recoverable costs specifically, in the UPC is due after the February 2015 meeting of the Preparatory Committee.

Court rules

The seventeenth draft of the Rules of Procedure was published on 3 November 2014, with a public consultation in Trier following on 26 November 2014. A further meeting of the Legal Working Group and Drafting Committee to finalise the Rules is due to take place on an as yet unscheduled date in 2015.

Training of judges

A formal application process for judges of the new UPC is now being prepared. It is proposed that 80 legal judges and 40 technical judges will be trained in the course of 2015.

Conclusion

Progress is very much ongoing, if still rather slow, and there remains a lot to be done. However, it does at last appear that the unitary patent and UPC are indeed going to happen. 

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