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Denmark moves EU step closer to creation of unified patent court

Denmark has become the fifth European Union country to ratify an agreement that paves the way for unified patent protection for inventors across the EU and the creation of a unified patent court (UPC).

Denmark’s decision followed a national referendum held in May 2014, in which voters gave the go-ahead for ratification of the agreement, in line with Austria, Belgium, France and Malta.

The UPC agreement (121-page / 320 KB PDF) was signed by 25 EU member states in 2013 as part of a patent reform package that includes the creation of a unitary patent. The agreement enters into force once it has been ratified by 13 member states, including the three countries with the largest number of European patents valid in their territory in 2012, which are France, Germany and the UK. Spain, Italy and Croatia are the only EU countries not to have signed the 2013 UPC agreement.

According to the European Commission, the UPC is the third and final component of a patent package that creates “a single and specialised patent jurisdiction”.

Currently, technical inventions can be protected in Europe either by national patents, granted by competent national authorities, or by European patents granted centrally by the European Patent Office.

Once the agreement and associated regulations enter into force, it will be possible to obtain a European patent with unitary effect, which the Commission said is “a legal title ensuring uniform protection for an invention across 25 member states on a one-stop shop basis, providing huge cost advantages and reducing administrative burdens”.

According to the Commission, the new patent “will be cheaper and more effective than current systems in protecting the inventions of individuals and firms”. The Commission said in 2012 that, “when the new system is up to speed, an EU patent may cost just €4,725, compared to an average of €36,000 needed today”.

According to the European Patent Office, 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 its 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 based in Luxembourg.

The Commission said regional divisions of the UPC would have a seat in one of the member states creating the division, but would hear cases in multiple locations. “Regional divisions will be able to work in any of the official languages of the relevant member states and/or designate another procedural language, such as English,” the Commission said.

EU internal market and services commissioner Michel Barnier said earlier this year: “As a first specialised court common to the member states in the patent litigation area, the court will open a new chapter in the history of both the patent system and judicial cooperation in the EU.”

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