Staying in to benefit from the UPC system
The UPC will include:
- Judicial judges experimented in patent matters
- Technical Judges that are likely to have a better understanding of technically complex inventions and a better reasoning on patent infringement.
The new Court will obviously prevent situations of contradictory decisions that may occur when litigating the same case before different national Courts.
The Rules of Proceeding of the UPC are designed to reach decisions within one year, if the defined schedule is respected, thus substantially reducing the duration of proceedings compared to some national Courts.
The UPC is particularly powerful in case of multiple infringements in different European countries, since a decision can be obtained through a single action brought before the UPC and will have effect over all UPC-A member states. Choosing the UPC will, then, significantly reduce the litigation costs in comparison with several litigations to be carried out in different countries.
Reasons to opt out
With the UPC, a European patent can be revoked in all states by a single decision. This will allow third parties and suspected infringers to efficiently challenge the validity, during the whole lifetime of the patents.
Hence European patents obtained before the UPC opening and for which the opposition period has expired will remain at risk of central revocation.
Moreover, the lack of experience and case law from the UPC may make choosing the UPC risky as we do not know yet the position that will be taken by the Court, in particular regarding the validity of patents. Also, UPC rules and procedures are obviously untried; it will take several years to achieve consistency in decisions.
Another element to consider where making the choice to opt out patents is that opt-out must be made by all proprietors and in respect of all of the states for which the European patent has been granted, not only EU member states. The first difficulty that may arise from this rule is to identify the true proprietors of the patent, which will not necessarily be the registered proprietors, especially when patents have been assigned from a third party. Ownership should be checked, although there is no necessity to update/correct registers. The second difficulty is the necessity for all the proprietors to join the opt-out request. As such, it is likely that when litigation arise, the opt out itself may be subject to discussion.
A proprietor having registered an opt-out and wishing to bring an action before the UPC to benefit from its pan-European jurisdiction may opt in again, by withdrawing the opt-out. However, the proprietor may be impeded from opting back in where an action has already been brought before a national Court; the patent is thus locked out of the UPC forever.
Philippe OCVIRK, Partner | European patent attorney