News from Abroad: Progress for Single European Patent and Litigation System

Unitary European Patent

European Union (EU) FlagThe European Union (EU) Parliament is close to approving new regulations for a single patent covering 25 states of the EU.  Under these regulations, patents granted by the European Patent Office can cover, and be enforceable in, 25 countries of the EU as a single entity.  The patentee will be able to choose if the granted patent becomes individual patents in one or more of those 25 countries, or the unitary patent covering all 25.  There will be no requirement for the patentee to translate the patent.

Italy and Spain have each launched legal challenges, at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), against these proposals.  However, although these challenges will slow progress, political pressure means that the unitary European patent will become a reality in the near future.

The EU has set a target date of 1 January 2014 for the unitary patent system to come into force.

Pan-European patent litigation system

Currently, European patents are a bundle of national patents, enforced nationally.  For some time the goal of the EU has been central enforcement of European patent rights.  The EU has agreed that the unitary European patent will come into force alongside a system of central enforcement of patent rights in Europe.

The European Commission is putting in place a court, the EU Unified Patent Court (UPC), which will have exclusive jurisdiction over enforcement of both the proposed unitary European patents and national patents granted by the EPO.  The proposed court will be set up by agreement between the 25 member states.

The UPC will initially have three centres:  Paris, London and Munich.  London will have jurisdiction over litigation of patents relating to chemistry and the life sciences, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices, Munich will have jurisdiction over litigation of patents relating to mechanical engineering and Paris will take the remaining technologies.  There will be an Appeal Court in Luxembourg.

The London cluster is a significant boost for the UK, and UK litigants will have easy access to Paris which is only a short train ride away.  Forresters has a strong presence in the other two key locations, with offices in both London and Munich.

The EU has yet to decide the exact relationship between the courts.  This will become clearer as the courts are set up.

The proposed structure would provide a new system of patent litigation in the EU by 1 April 2014.

We will keep you updated on the progress of both proposals.

This article was reprinted with permission from Forresters life sciences newsletter.