Delay to the operation of new unified patent court

Out-Law News | 24 Mar 2014 | 12:51 pm | 1 min. read

A new court system that is being set up to handle disputes about unitary patents may not be operational until 2016, the group established to deliver the new system has said.

The preparatory committee for the unified patent court (UPC) confirmed that it will not be able to deliver the new framework in time for the courts to hear its first cases in early 2015 as it had originally intended.

"Even if considerable progress has been logged it is apparent that some areas suffer delays," the committee said in a statement. "It is clear to the committee that the ambitious target date of early 2015, decided at its first meeting, cannot be accomplished. The committee stays completely focused on its task but at the same time cannot let self-imposed deadlines stand in the way of quality. At its fifth meeting it was agreed that the UPC will not be operational until the end of 2015 at the earliest."

Patent law expert Adrian Murray of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that there are a number of major issues to be ironed out before the unitary patent and unified patent court framework can be operational.

"Among the issues yet to be decided upon include the cost of renewing unified patents," Murray said recently. "The circumstances in which preliminary injunctions will be awarded by the regional divisional courts is also still unresolved. Until these and other major facets of the new regime are clarified, there will continue to be consternation and uncertainty among businesses, as demonstrated by a range of major companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung in a recent open letter.”

The UPC system will see local, regional and central divisional courts hear disputes about the validity and infringement of unitary patents. Unitary patents are protections businesses will soon be able to obtain for their inventions that will apply across 25 of the EU's member states. Italy and Spain have objected to the plans and Croatia, a new joiner to the EU last year, has not yet signed up to participate in the unitary patent regime.

Under the new framework, businesses will be able to obtain unitary patent protection across all of the participating countries by filing just a single patent application at the European Patent Office (EPO). A complex range of legislation, agreements and rules needed to make the new regime operational has either already been created or are in the process of being finalised.

In its statement the preparatory committee for the UPC said that issues such as court fees and recoverable costs had been discussed during its recent meeting in Brussels. It also welcomed the opening of the new training centre for UPC judges in Budapest.

"The committee discussed and decided on a proposal for a framework for the training of the candidate UPC judges that will enable the training to kick-start, hopefully already immediately after the summer break," it said.