Yesterday, the much awaited website of the UPC Preparatory Committee went live under the domain www.unified-patent-court.org. A main purpose of this website is to inform the public about the Committee’s work and the UPC as such (see e.g. Q&A section). One of the most important tasks of the Committee is the preparation of the Rules of Procedure of the future Unified Patent Court.
public consultation until 1 October 2013.
Written comments are to be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. So, please, colleagues, readers, and fellow bloggers, study the official draft and make submissions to the Preparatory Committee if necessary.
The further procedure after closure of the public consultation is explained as well:
[...] the Committee shall after closure of the written phase of the public consultation ask the Drafting Committee to evaluate the contributions received and to make proposals and comments ensuing from the public consultation. Further, the Committee intends to organise a public hearing on the draft rules of procedure in early 2014. The European Commission shall be asked to advise on the compatibility of the Rules of Procedure with European Union law. This will form the basis for the Committee’s Legal Framework Working Group to prepare the draft Rules of Procedure for approval by the Committee. As with all of the Committee’s preparatory work, also the Rules of Procedure will need to be adopted by the UPC’s Administrative Committee once it has been established.
The official version of the 15th draft differs form the inofficial version in a number of ways. One significant difference relates to Rule 286 governing, inter alia, the conditions under which non-lawyers (i.e. professionals that are not attorneys-at-law) may independently represent cases before the UPC. This rule has previously been criticised on this blog because of its striking lack of clarity (see here for the inofficial 15th draft version and here for the 14th draft version), as the 14th draft contained the unclear term “jurist” and the inofficial 15th draft contained an even more unclear recursive definition of the term “lawyer”.
Clarified Rule 286 (1) of the 15th draft RoP now reads as follows, with the crucial sentence highlighted:
A representative pursuant to Article 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 persons possessing a law degree (jurist) who are authorised by the Swedish Patent Attorneys Board or equivalent body in a Contracting Member State. They shall lodge a certificate evidencing such authorisation. In subsequent actions the representative may refer to the certificate previously lodged.
Our interpretation of this paragraph is as follows: Lawyer within the meaning of Art 48 (1) UPCA are authorised to represent cases before the UPC without any additional qualification such as a Litigation Certificate. Rule 286 (1) RoP subsumes und this privileged group such professionals having a law degree and being authorised [to practise before a court of a Contracting Member] by a national Patent Bar Organisation of a UPC member state, such as the Swedish Patent Attorney’s Board (“Patentombudsnämnden“), the German Patentanwaltskammer or the British CIPA.
This means that such national patent attorneys (members of a national patent bar) would fall under the priviledge of Art 48 (1) UPCA, who
- have a recognised law degree, without necessarily being a lawyer or attorneys-at-law, and
- are authorised to practise before a Court of a Member State.
As, for instance, German patent attorneys are authorised to individually represent cases before the Federal Patent Court (BPatG) and invalidity cases before the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) and British patent attorneys are entitled to practice before the Patents Country Court (PCC), these two groups would clearly satisfy condition no. 2. Interestingly, European patent attorneys having a law degree would not be fully authorised, as the epi membership does not authorise any practise before a national court.
Further, condition no. 1 could be met by having e.g. a Master of Laws or Juris Doctor degree as an LL.M. or J.D. certainly is a law degree, although – usually – one that does not authorise the holder to practise before a court.
In other word, Rule 286 (1) 15th draft RoP would, if adopted, authorise e.g. German and British patent attorneys having an LL.M. to independently practise before the Unified Patent Court in the sense of Art 48 (1) UPCA, i.e. without the necessity to obtain the European Patent Litigation Certificate (EPLC) according to Art 48 (2) UPCA.
The EPLC is not further defined in the Rules of Procedure and the Committee’s website by now only states that “this is an issue which will have to be considered by the Contracting Member States and the Preparatory Committee and has not yet been decided on”.
However, at least some additional information is given in the roadmap, the most relevant statement being highlighted:
a.6 Rules on the litigation certificate for patent attorneys. The compilation of a curriculum needs to be successfully completed for the establishment of a litigation certificate. Such a curriculum could be administered by a suitable educational body. Alongside with the establishment of a standard there is a need to explore the possibility to offer courses at several locations. Work is expected to commence immediately, aiming at a first draft to be ready December 2013.
e.4 List of patent attorneys entitled to represent parties before the UPC. Based on the work of the Legal Framework group (IV-a supra) the HR group shall make facilities available that will enable patent attorneys that meet the requirements for obtaining a patent litigation certificate to register with the UPC.
In sum, in now seems that the Preparatory Committee likes the idea that, besides national lawyers and attorneys-at-law, two further groups should gain full representation rights before the UPC:
- European Patent Attorneys having the European Patent Litigation Certificate (Art. 48 (2) UPCA), and
- National patent attorneys authorised to practise before a Court and having a law degree (R 286 (1) RoP).
Definition no. 2 seems a bit odd, as members of this group would be fully authorised without being European Patent Attorneys (is that really intended by the Committee?). Also, Art 48 (2) UPCA grants full representation rights to European Patent Attorneys having an additional qualification such as the European Patent Litigation Certificate, whereas , by now, nothing is known as to which other qualifications would be sufficient besides the EPLC.
It thus may be worth considering to amend Rule 286 (1) RoP to read
[...] Lawyers within the meaning of Article 48(1) of the Agreement are also
personsEuropean Patent Attorneys who are entitled to act as professional representatives before the European Patent Office pursuant to Article 134 of the EPC possessing a law degree (jurist) and who are authorised by the Swedish Patent Attorneys Board or equivalent body in a Contracting Member State [...]
Alternatively a sentence could be added to Rule 286 (1) RoP expressing that a European Patent Attorney is appropriately qualified within the meaning of Art 48 (2) UPCA if he holds a law degree and is authorised to practise before a court of a Contracting Member State by a national patent attorneys board of a Contracting Member State.
Volker 'Falk' Metzler
European Patent Attorney, German 'Patentanwalt', European Trademark and Design Attorney, Computer Scientist, PhD, IP Blogger, Father of Two, Mountain Enthusiast
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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- Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Cou... on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
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