On Friday 6 June the Preparatory Committee of the Unified Patent Court published a second progress report on the implementation of the 'Patent Package', which comprises the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court.
The report sets out progress which has been made by both the Select Committee of the EPO in relation to the unitary patent, and the Preparatory Committee in relation to the Unified Patent Court. As regards the unitary patent, the report notes that good progress seems to have been made on various legal aspects of the implementation of the unitary patent, including the rules relating to unitary patent protection and the translation compensation scheme for SMEs. The current area of discussion is renewal fees, and forthcoming meetings may make progress in this regard (renewal fees being perhaps the single most important aspect currently under discussion concerning the unitary patent). The Select Committee envisages completing its work by the end of the first semester of 2015.
In parallel, the Preparatory Committee of the Unified Patent Court continues its work. This is a very substantial task, involving several important aspects: legal, financial, IT, HR and facilities. As regards the legal aspects, as previously reported a 16th draft of the Rules of Procedure was published earlier this year, and is currently with the Preparatory Committee. It is envisaged that a 17th draft will then be published in advance of a public meeting, to be held in the Autumn of 2014. This will be the final opportunity to comment on the Rules of Procedure. It is also noted that Austria, France and Sweden have ratified the UPC Agreement, and progress is being made by other countries including the UK and Germany.
As regards finance, court fees are under consideration and it is expected that a proposal for these fees will be published by the end of 2014, for public consultation.
Procurement of the IT system is currently envisaged to be completed by the summer of 2014.
The HR stream has also been progressing, following the receipt of expressions of interest from some 1,300 judicial candidates and the opening of the judicial training centre in Budapest earlier this year. Training of successful candidates is anticipated to start in the Autumn of 2014.
As for facilities, these remain under discussion but there is a clearer picture emerging of which countries will have local divisions, which may participate in regional divisions and which will rely on the Central Division. Aside from the Baltic/Nordic regional division comprising Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, nothing is official yet but local divisions are expected in at least Germany, the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.
Finally, the overall timetable is being kept under review. The Preparatory Committee notes that it expects its work to continue until the end of 2015. A revised roadmap, and new target date for completion, will not however be published until early 2015. It is to be remembered that the whole system cannot come into being until 4 months after the 13th ratification of the Unitary Patent Court Agreement, which must include all of France (which has ratified), Germany and the UK. It is reasonable to assume that one or other of the latter two will hold back formal ratification until it is clear the system will be ready 4 months beyond that date.
A link to the report is here: www.unified-patent-court.org