Kick-off of the Unified Patent Court
The Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement signed in 2013 is a breakthrough for pan-European patent law.
Provisions of the UPC Agreement entered into provisional application on January 19, 2022 for thirteen European countries, following Austria’s deposit of the instrument of ratification of the Protocol on provisional application (PPA) signed in October 2015.
During the Provisional Application Period (PAP), which has now started and is expected to last at least eight months, the Administrative Committee, the Advisory Committee and the Budget Committee of the UPC will start running together with the Preparatory Committee to put in place the practical organization of the new court system and to recruit judges.
The UPC Agreement itself will come into force on the first day of the fourth month after Germany deposits its instrument of ratification, which will occur once the German government is satisfied that the UPC is functional. Given the work which should occur during the PAP, this deposit is expected during the summer of 2022.
Therefore, the Court is expected to start receiving cases around the end of 2022, or the beginning of 2023.
At that date, unitary patent protection will become available under EU Regulation No. 1257/2012 for the European countries which have by then ratified the UPC Agreement.
Seventeen European countries have currently ratified the UPC Agreement: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden.
Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Romania and Slovakia signed the UPC Agreement but have not ratified it thus far (though Greece, Hungary and Romania ratified the PPA).
Croatia, Poland and Spain have not signed the UPC Agreement. The United Kingdom signed and ratified the Agreement, but withdrew following Brexit.
Patent owners will have the possibility to opt out from the exclusive jurisdiction of the UPC, during a transitional period of seven years from its entry into force and further during a three-month “sunrise period” preceding its entry into force. Opting out, if used, will have be declared to the Registrar of the Court for each individual patent or application.
In this respect, our experts at Plasseraud IP will be mobilized during the year 2022 to address with their clients strategic questions about European patent portfolio management.