The EU Council of Ministers has endorsed a compromise agreement between the EU Member States in relation to the proposals for European unitary patent protection. All that now remains to bring the proposed unitary patent system into effect is for the European Parliament to vote on the proposals, the participating Member States to ratify the Unitary Patent Court Agreement, and the administrative work in preparation for the Unitary Patent Court (“UPC”) to be completed.
Patent rights within the EU are currently governed by national law, which means that patent rights have to be asserted on a state-by-state basis across all Member States. The proposed unitary patent will mean that a decision can be given in the UPC which will then be binding across all participating Member States. In total, 25 of the 28 Member States are participating in the unitary patent agreement framework; Spain and Italy have decided not to enter into the agreement due to objections over English, German and French being the UPC’s only official languages and Croatia, being the most recent country to join the EU in 2013, has not yet opted-in to the UPC.
The recent compromise agreement related to the effect had by the Brussels I Regulation (1215/2012), which determines matters of court jurisdiction and enforcement in civil cases within the EU, on the UPC’s jurisdiction. The European Commission has proposed an amendment to the Brussels I Regulation to clarify that it will not affect the allocation of UPC cases. The Commission also proposed amending the UPC proposals to clarify how the UPC would operate in relation to disputes involving litigants from outside the EU.
A final vote from by the European Parliament on the proposed UPC agreement is expected to be held by April 2014.
The European Commission’s press release can be found at the Europa website: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-153_en.htm