IP Cases & Articles

Unified Patent Court: the beginning of a new era

Thursday 01 June 2023 marks the beginning of a new era for the European patent system: after decades of working towards simplifying patent litigation in Europe, the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPCA) has entered into force, and the Unified Patent Court (UPC) has opened. Moreover, as an alternative to the classic European patent, proprietors of newly granted European patents can choose European patents with unitary effect also known as unitary patents (UP), that cover, for now, the territories of 17 member states of the European Union (EU), taking part in an enhanced cooperation of the EU.

The UPC starts with 22 locations across 17 participating member states, with seven participating member states expected to join later. The remaining EU member states (Croatia, Poland and Spain) can also join, if they wish to do so. As further states join, territorial coverage of newly granted unitary patents will extend to include these states.

Thus, from its very beginning, the UPC’s jurisdiction already covers a population of 296,678,702 (66.4 % of population of the EU in 2022) and gross domestic product (GDP) of 11,234 billion EUR (77.9 % of the GDP of the EU in 2021). With the additional seven participating member states the UPC’s jurisdiction would cover a population of 357,786,025 (80.1 %) and gross domestic product (GDP) of 12,591 billion EUR (87.3 %).

It is possible to opt out European patent applications and classic European patents from the jurisdiction of the UPC during a transitional period, so that national courts in each participating member state remain solely competent for the opted-out European patent applications and classic European patents.

The UPC proves that where there's a political will, there's a way – into uncharted territory towards economic growth and innovation throughout the EU.

This new court is an ambitious project. The court is equipped with a purpose-built tailor-made electronic case management system (CMS). Although this new system has been overwhelmed during the last three months before the start of the UPC, the period known as sunrise period, by applications to opt-out classic European patents, one can see that the CMS will be the backbone of the highly branched court, that has the potential to provide unparalleled functionalities and external connectivity.

Much has been said and written about the pros and cons of opting-out from the jurisdiction of the UPC. However, the political will in the EU is to unify and strengthen patent litigation across a large number of states.

The relevance of the UPC to patent litigation in Europe cannot be overstated. With harmonisation, efficiency, and effective patent enforcement at its core, the UPC offers a way out of fragmented litigation and varying legal systems.

However, with new options in addition to established practice, taking decisions can become even more complex and complicated for stakeholders than before.

The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is a court of law and parties must be represented by an authorised lawyer or qualified attorney. Our German and UK-based European patent attorneys are appropriately qualified to handle litigation matters directly before the UPC - individually, or as part of cross-disciplinary and cross-border teams.

Good luck! * Viel Erfolg! * Bon courage!

UPC Committee news release

News release dated 01 June 2023 from the Unified Patent Court website.

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