Currently, national courts and authorities of the contracting states of the European Patent Convention are competent to decide on the infringement and validity of European patents. In practice, this gives rise to a number of difficulties when a patent proprietor wishes to enforce a European patent - or when a third party seeks the revocation of a European patent - in several countries: high costs, risk of diverging decisions and lack of legal certainty. Forum shopping is also inevitable as parties seek to take advantage of differences in national courts' interpretation of harmonised European patent law and in procedural laws, as well as differences in speed (between "slow" and "quick" courts) and in the level of damages awarded.
The Agreement on the Unified Patent Court addresses the above problems by creating a specialised patent court ("Unified Patent Court", or UPC) with exclusive jurisdiction for litigation relating to European patents and European patents with unitary effect (unitary patents).
The UPC will comprise a Court of First Instance, a Court of Appeal and a Registry. The Court of First Instance will be composed of a central division (with seat in Paris and two sections in London and Munich) and by several local and regional divisions in the Contracting Member States to the Agreement. The Court of Appeal will be located in Luxembourg.
The Agreement was signed by 25 EU Member States on 19 February 2013. It will need to be ratified by at least 13 states, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom to enter into force (see status of ratification).