According to the closing note at the very end of the text of the Draft agreement on a Unified Patent Court (Document 16222/12 [2012-11-14]), indication is given that the Agreement is scheduled to be signed on February 18, 2013 in Brussels. After that date, a rush to the respective national Parliaments of all of the participating Member States is attributed top priority on the agendas of the Governments; c.f. Document 16221/12 [2012-11-14] Updated draft declaration of the contracting Member States concerning the preparations for the coming into operation of the UPC agreement.
Article 59 Para. 1 of the Agreement stipulates:
Entry into force
(1) This Agreement shall enter into force on 1 January 2014 or on the first day of the fourth month after the deposit of the thirteenth instrument of ratification or accession in accordance with Article 58a, including the three Member States in which the highest number of European patents had effect in the year preceding the year in which the signature of the Agreement takes place or on the first day of the fourth month after the date of entry into force of the amendments to Regulation (EC) 44/2001 concerning its relationship with this Agreement, whichever is the latest.
Well, what would happen if the quorum of 13 ratifications including Germany, United Kingdom and France (i.e. the three Member States in which the highest number of European patents) is not reached in some foreseeable future due to some political misfortune? Take, for example, a purely fictional case where the United Kingdom instead of timely ratifying the Agreement holds a referendum resulting in a margin of votes in favour of leaving the EU at all (note also this and that).
In such case the Regulation of the Council and the European Parliament implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection (Document 11328/11 [2011-06-23]) provides a matching clause in Aricle 22 Para. 2:
It shall apply from [a specific date will be set and it will coincide with the date of application of Council Regulation .../... on the implementation of enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements] or the date of the entry into force of the instrument creating a unified patent litigation system and the setting up of such a system, whichever is the later.
Hence, if the Agreement creating the Unified Patent Court is blocked, the Regulation creating the European Patent with unitary effect will effectively be blocked as well.
If the Regulation and the Agreement both have entered into force in accordance with the political timetable, the question will arise as to how can be dealt with nullity and/or litigation cases touching one of the non-participating member States of the EU, i.e. Italy and Spain plus any further defectors not managing to ratify the Agreement e.g. due to domestic political or constitutional (Denmark? Ireland?) troubles.
Article 15 of the Agreement clarifies:
The international jurisdiction of the Court shall be established in accordance with Regulation (EC) 44/2001 or, where applicable, on the basis of the Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Lugano Convention).
Article 22 Number 4 of Regulation (EC) 44/2001 stipulates:
The following courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction, regardless of domicile:
4. in proceedings concerned with the registration or validity of patents, trade marks, designs, or other similar rights required to be deposited or registered, the courts of the Member State in which the deposit or registration has been applied for, has taken place or is under the terms of a Community instrument or an international convention deemed to have taken place.
Without prejudice to the jurisdiction of the European Patent Office under the Convention on the Grant of European Patents, signed at Munich on 5 October 1973, the courts of each Member State shall have exclusive jurisdiction, regardless of domicile, in proceedings concerned with the registration or validity of any European patent granted for that State;
Obviously it looks as if Article 22 Number 4 might kick in in cases where a national part of a conventional European bundle patent is challenged in a EU Member State not participating in the UPC Agreement. However, adjustment of the text of Regulation EC 44/2001 appears to be necessary; see also the wording of Article 59 Para. 1 of the UPC Agreement. Currently I do not have any Documents reflecting the state of play concerning necessary Amendments to Regulation 44/2001; however, see in particular Document 17407/11 dated December 02, 2011 titled Draft agreement on the Unified Patent Court – Relationship of the draft agreement on the Unified Patent Court with Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 Brussels I.
A European Patent with unitary effect will have no effect in a Member State not participating in the enhanced co-operation; see Article 3 of the Draft Regulation. Hence, there appears to be no room for litigating a European Patent with unitary effect in Italy, Spain or any other non-participating Member State.
Axel H. Horns
German & European Patent, Trade Mark & Design Attorney
The k/s/n/h::law blog
Some of the patent attorneys of the KSNH law firm have joined their efforts to research what is going on in the various branches of IP law and practice in order to keep themselves, their clients as well as interested circles of the public up to date. This blog is intended to present results of such efforts to a wider public.
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- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days - KSNH Law - Intangible.Me on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days | ksnh::law on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Cou... on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- European Commission Takes Next Step Towards Legalising Software Patents in Europe | Techrights on EU Commission publishes Proposal of amendend Brussels I Regulation for ensuring Enforcement of UPC Judgements
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