A few days ago, the 14th Draft of the preliminary set of provisions for the Rules of procedure of the Unified Patent Court dated January 31st, 2013, has appeared on the Internet. This means that now all main components of the new EU Unitary Patent & Unified Patent Court system are either final or at least available in a quite recent draft version. The text comprises 382 Rules and covers a wide range of procedural law to be applied in cases before the new court, including:
- Application and interpretation of the Rules of Procedure,
- Procedures before the Court of First Instance,
- Provisional Measures,
- Procedures before the Court of Appeal,
- General provisions,
- Fees and legal aid.
The rights of Patent Attorneys to appear in Court and to represent clients will be governed by Rules 286 and 292.
Rule 286 – Certificate that a representative is authorised to practice before the Court
1. A representative pursuant to Aricle 48(1) of the Agreement shall lodge at the Registry a certificate that he is a lawyer authorised to practise before a court of a Contracting Member State. Lawyers within the meaning of Article 48(1) of the Agreement are also jurists authorised to practice in patent related matters before a court in a Contracting Member State and they shall lodge a certificate evidencing such authorisation. In subsequent cases the representative may refer to the certificate previously lodged.
2. A representative pursuant to Article 48(2) of the Agreement shall lodge at the Registry the European Patent Litigation Certificate as defined by the Administrative Committee or otherwise justify that he has appropriate qualifications to represent a party before the Court. In subsequent cases such representative may refer to the certificate or other evidence of appropriate qualification previously lodged.
It appears to be of interest that a European Patent Litigation Certificate always is deemed to be sufficient for allowing a Patent Attorney to take over representation whereas other qualifications to justify that he has appropriate qualifications to represent a party before the Court are merely to be considered by the Court on the basis of their own discretionary authority.
If a Patent Attorney cannot not benefit from Rule 286 (2) RoP, then his or here role will be based on Rule 292:
Rule 292 – Patent attorneys’ right of audience
1. For the purposes of Article 48(4) of the Agreement, the term “patent attorneys” assisting a representative referred to in Aricle 28(1) of the Agreement shall mean persons meeting the requirements of Aricle 134(1) or (3)(a) to (c) EPC or the professional requirements of the Contracting Member State to the Agreement in which the individual practises.
2. Such patent attorneys shall be allowed to speak at hearings of the Court at the discretion of the Court and subject to the representative’s responsibility to coordinate the presentation of a party’s case.
3. Rules 287 to 291 shall apply mutatis mutandis.
On the one hand this means that even a national Patent Attorney admitted e.g. in Germany may appear in Court enjoying a right of audience but, on the other hand, at the discretion of the Court (and, of course, subject to the primary representative’s responsibility to coordinate the presentation of a party’s case) only.
Concerning the signing ceremony of the United Patent Court Agreement scheduled to take place on February 19, 2013, the German Government formally has decided to attend and sign the text. This is what was to be expected. However, it looks as if the Polish Goverment is poised to abstain in response to some lobbying efforts from local industries considering that they might lose more than what can be gained from joining the UPC system. By and large, this does not matter that much at the time being because of Poland is not one of the three largest EU patent filing nations mandatorily required for bringing the Agreement into power. Maybe they might join the club later.
On the contrary, the United Kingdom is one of the “big three” patent filers in the EU, in view of Mr Cameron’s speech on the prospects and conditions of the EU Membership of the UK, and there have been concerns that the Government might delay the ratification procedure until an in/out referendum has been made. Although this question cannot be answered reliably, the European Scrutiny Committee of the UK House of Commons (having been quite hostile towards the EU Unitary Patent and the Unified Paatent Court in the past) now write:
8.27 We thank the Minister for his helpful letter. We note the changes to the UPC Agreement since we published our Report, The Unified Patent Court: help or hindrance?, on 3 May last year. The most significant change is the removal of the ECJ’s jurisdiction over the infringement of unitary patents, which was a principal recommendation of our Report. We are also pleased to note that at least part of the Central Division will be located in London; that there is scope for extending the transitional provisions by a further seven years; and that Supplementary Protection Certificates will fall within the UPC’s jurisdiction.
8.28 However, many of the concerns with the UPC still remain, in particular the effect of bifurcation on forum shopping, the training and quality of UPC judges, the prohibitive expense of using the unitary patent and UPC, particularly for SMEs, and the lack of an up-to-date Commission impact assessment (we remain doubtful at this stage of the benefits to business suggested by the Minister in paragraph 8.24 above).
8.29 Given that the negotiations on the UPC Agreement have now concluded, we are content to clear it from scrutiny. The Minister says, however, that:
“Further negotiations among the signatories will also be necessary to finalise the rules of procedure for the court, to set the level of patent and court fees and establish the governance mechanisms for the court. The Government will ensure that it continues to influence the operational details related to the Agreement and that the views of UK stakeholders are considered in the wider discussions. Separately, signatories will need to consider whether to establish local or regional divisions of the court.”
8.30 In the light of this, we would be grateful if the Minister would write to us at the conclusion of the negotiations on the rules of procedure summarising their content and explain to what extent they mitigate the outstanding concerns we list above, and to what extent they reflect the views of the stakeholders which the Government will be consulting.
Reading the phrase “we are content to clear it from scrutiny” I would be inclined to assume that this language equals to an endorsement directed at the Prime Minister to proceed with signing and timely ratifying the Agreement.
(Drawing taken from Wikimedia; copyright expired)
Axel H. Horns
German & European Patent, Trade Mark & Design Attorney
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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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