Twenty-five EU Member States signed an international agreement to establish the Unified Patent Court (UPC), to which seventeen are currently bound. This new court will deal with questions of infringement and validity of both Unitary Patents and European patents.
The UPC is a new international court set up to decide on the infringement and validity of Unitary Patents and "classic" European patents under the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC Agreement) of 19 February 2013 (see OJ EPO 2013, 287).
Currently, national courts and authorities decide on the infringement and validity of European patents. In practice, this can lead to difficulties when a patent proprietor wishes to enforce a European patent in several countries or when a third party seeks the revocation of a European patent. Litigation in multiple countries is expensive and there is a risk of diverging decisions and a lack of legal certainty. Forum shopping is often inevitable, as parties seek to take advantage of differences between national courts and their procedures.
The UPC Agreement addresses these shortcomings by creating a specialised patent court with exclusive jurisdiction for litigation relating to Unitary Patents and European patents and harmonising the scope and limitations of the rights conferred by a patent, and remedies available beyond EU Directive 2004/48/EC (Enforcement Directive).
The UPC will comprise
The Court of First Instance will be composed of a central division (with its seat in Paris and a section in Munich) and several local and regional divisions. The Court of Appeal will be located in Luxembourg.
The UPC will provide a better framework for all parties involved in patent litigation in Europe. In particular, costs will be reduced as parties will not need to engage in parallel patent litigation in different member states. Diverging decisions from different national courts on infringement and validity of the same patent will cease as the UPC develops a truly European case law, thus enhancing legal certainty for all users. Over time, a more efficient and balanced patent litigation system will emerge, to the benefit of both patent proprietors and third parties, namely:
The UPC Agreement (OJ EPO 2013, 287) was signed on 19 February 2013 by the EU Member States (except Croatia, Poland and Spain). It must be ratified by at least 13 states, including the three states in which the highest number of European patents had effect in 2012, i.e. Germany, France and Italy to enter into force (information on the UK withdrawal from the UPC Agreement). For the state of play regarding ratification, please see the website of the Council of the EU.