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Client Alerts

Historic breakthrough – EU leaders have agreed on the seat of the European Unified Patent Court

July 2, 2012

Client Alerts

Historic breakthrough – EU leaders have agreed on the seat of the European Unified Patent Court

July 2, 2012

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On June 29, EU leaders have agreed on the seat of the European Unified Patent Court which will have the competence with respect to infringement actions based on European unitary patents and to their validity. The main seat will be in Paris with subdivisions in London (for patents in IPC classes A and C, i.e. life sciences, chemistry and pharmacy) and in Munich (for patents in IPC class F, i.e. mechanical engineering). The subdivision in Munich will also be responsible for handling administrative matters.

This is a milestone for establishing a real European patent, the so-called unitary EU patent, which will be valid in 27 EU member states. Only Italy and Spain refused to participate in the new European patent litigation system.

The European Patent Office will most likely grant the first unitary EU patent as of April 2012. It is very likely that this also a possible option for presently pending EP applications, provided that all EPO member states have been designated. The European Patent Office will also be competent for all administrative matters for unitary EU patents after grant, in particular annuity payments and updating the patent register.

A very positive aspect is also that the translation requirements will be further reduced. It appears as if only the claims need be present in English, German and French (as this is the case with EP patents), whereas the EPO will take care of providing machine translations into all other EU languages.

With the new EU patent litigation system, it will no longer be necessary to enforce patents country-by-country. It will be sufficient to file one action with one court to cover almost the entire European market (except Spain and Italy).

The European Parliament is now conducting the legislative process for the unitary patent. In that respect, plenty of questions will have to be dealt with, in particular:

  • the jurisdiction of the so-called regional courts in unitary patent litigation matters, as it was previously planned that each member state should establish courts handling patent cases in first instance;
  • the exact responsibilities of the Unitary Patent Court (court of first instance for non-EU defendants, but appeal instance for actions filed with the regional courts against EU defendants?);
  • the question whether the European Court of Justice will be involved in the new patent litigation system;
  • the relationship between EPO oppositions and EU patent invalidation actions.

The basis will be the “patent package” discussed by EU parliament and council negotiators in December 2011. But the next important steps, decisions and votes will likely be taken in the next few weeks.”

 

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