Unified Patent Court (UPC) expected to open in December 2017

Anna L. Hatt & Dr Catherine M. Jewell

The Preparatory Committee working to establish the Unified Patent Court (UPC) that will be a critical part of the new European Unified Patents Package announced this week that it expects the UPC to start operations in December of this year.

It will be possible to “opt-out” existing European patents (and pending applications) from the jurisdiction of the UPC, provided no actions have yet been brought in the UPC.  Opted-out patents will remain subject to national jurisdiction.  The opt-out can be registered from the beginning of the “sunrise period” until the end of the transitional period (the first 7 years in which the UPC is effective, extendable by a further 7 years). 

We would advise Patent Proprietors to consider now whether there are patents/applications that they wish to opt-out of the new system, so that the opt-outs can be registered during the “sunrise period”.

The “sunrise period” is expected to begin in early September 2017. 

For a summary of the key points regarding jurisdiction, opt-out and the implications of the new system see our earlier article here.  For more details about the UPC itself see our earlier articles here and here.

The announcement from the Preparatory Committee is that we can expect the unitary patent system to come into effect at the end of this year, which means that applications that are now pending could potentially benefit from unitary effect.  European patents with unitary effect will cover all participating EU states, including the United Kingdom.

Proprietors with applications pending at the European Patent Office will need to consider whether they might wish to apply for unitary effect for European patents which grant after the system has come into force, and/or potentially delaying grant until this time. 

There is to be a further announcement on the timetable for the Unitary Patents Package in March 2017 and we will issue a further update then.

In the meantime, if you would like further information or advice with regard to the unitary patent or the UPC, please feel free to contact us.