Europe’s Unified Patent Court motors on

By Alan Johnson

It is now a year since agreement was reached to finalise the unitary patent and pan-European patents court — the Unified Patent Court or UPC. At the time of the announcement, the European Commission was predicting that the new system would be up and running by early 2014. That was always unrealistic, and a new target date has been set for early 2015. That too is unrealistic, but later in 2015 or 2016 is certainly possible, and the changes will represent the biggest shake-up in the European patent system for 40 years, since the European Patent Office was set up in Munich in the late 1970s to grant patents centrally for Europe, but that essentially morphed into national patents upon grant. The essence of the new system is two-fold. First, a new ‘unitary’ patent will be available that will cover many EU states including the UK, Germany and France, and that will, unlike European patents, be a single pan-European patent when granted. Second, there will be a new pan-European patent court (the UPC) for litigating these new unitary patents and existing European patents subject to a transitional period.

Over the past year, progress has been steady and the political will to turn the project into a reality remains undiminished. Hence, it really is only a matter of exactly when the new system starts up. Importantly, there are steps that all the aerospace industry need to take in advance of the start date: it would be very unwise to wait until the new system goes live to react…

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