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Law & practice

Unified Patent Court

UPC visual: word cloud with the words greater legal certainty, harmonised body of law, Unifeid Patent Court, centralised enforcement and faster decisions

The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is an international court set up by 25 of the participating Member States to deal with the infringement and validity of both Unitary Patents and European patents. Its rulings will apply in all Member States that have ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC Agreement).


The UPC will:

  • establish an effective forum for enforcing and challenging patents in Europe
  • end the need for litigation in different countries
  • enhance legal certainty through harmonised case law in the area of patent infringement and validity
  • provide simpler, quicker and more efficient judicial procedures
  • harmonise substantive patent law relating to the scope and limitations of the rights conferred as well as the remedies in cases of infringement
Main features

The UPC is a new international court set up to decide on the infringement and validity of Unitary Patents and "classic" European patents under the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC Agreement) of 19 February 2013 (see OJ EPO 2013, 287).

Currently, national courts and authorities decide on the infringement and validity of European patents. In practice, this can lead to difficulties when a patent proprietor wishes to enforce a European patent in several countries or when a third party seeks the revocation of a European patent. Litigation in multiple countries is expensive and there is a risk of diverging decisions and a lack of legal certainty. Forum shopping is often inevitable, as parties seek to take advantage of differences between national courts and their procedures.

The UPC Agreement addresses these shortcomings by creating a specialised patent court with exclusive jurisdiction for litigation relating to Unitary Patents and European patents and harmonising the scope and limitations of the rights conferred by a patent, and remedies available beyond EU Directive 2004/48/EC (Enforcement Directive).

Structure

The UPC will comprise

  • a Court of First Instance
  • a Court of Appeal
  • a Registry.

The Court of First Instance will be composed of a central division (with its seat in Paris and sections in London and Munich) and several local and regional divisions. The Court of Appeal will be located in Luxembourg.

UPC structure

Benefits

The UPC will provide a better framework for all parties involved in patent litigation in Europe. In particular, costs will be reduced as parties will not need to engage in parallel patent litigation in different member states. Diverging decisions from different national courts on infringement and validity of the same patent will cease as the UPC develops a truly European case law, thus enhancing legal certainty for all users. Over time, a more efficient and balanced patent litigation system will emerge, to the benefit of both patent proprietors and third parties, namely:

  • for patent proprietors, the UPC will offer better enforcement of valid patents, with Europe-wide effects of decisions, injunctions and damages;
  • for third parties and the public, the UPC will provide a central revocation action, separate from the EPO's opposition procedure, at any time during the life of the patent.

The UPC Agreement (OJ EPO 2013, 287) was signed on 19 February 2013 by the EU Member States (except Croatia, Poland and Spain). It must be ratified by at least 13 states, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, to enter into force. For the state of play regarding ratification, please see the website of the Council of the EU.

Further information

For more information, please see

  • UPC website
  • "Patent Litigation in Europe" (4th edition, 2016, page 185 onwards)