During the first of two sessions of the Committee stage for the Intellectual Property Bill (transcripts here (1st sitting) and here (2nd sitting) discussed Clause 17 which relates to the implementation of the agreement on the Unified Patent Court.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire)(SNP) raised the issue of whether Edinburgh will get one of the (potentially) four local divisions that the UK is apparently eligible for. In his reply Mr David Willetts (Minister for Universities and Science) refused to be drawn into where such local divisions may be located, though he confirmed that “there is close engagement between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations—including the Administration in Scotland” on this matter.
Mr Willetts then proceeded to float the notion of a “travelling assize model” in which the local division would be able to roam the country in order to make the court accessible to as many businesses as possible. This travelling roadshow – presumably “leaping from town to town, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that the next leap will be the leap home… ” – was a concept we, at IPcopy, have not heard mooted before and piqued our curiosity.
It is worth looking briefly at the Unified Patent Court Agreement before going any further which states:
Article 7 – The Court of First Instance
3. A local division shall be set up in a Contracting Member State upon its request in accordance with the Statute. A Contracting Member State hosting a local division shall designate its seat.
4. An additional local division shall be set up in a Contracting Member State upon its request for every one hundred patent cases per calendar year that have been commenced in that Contracting Member State during three successive years prior to or subsequent to the date of entry into force of this Agreement. The number of local divisions in one Contracting Member State shall not exceed four.
Each local division of the UPC will come associated with a cost (facilities, staff etc.) and so the idea of a UPC Battle Bus roaming the towns and villages of the UK might seem like a way of having your cake and eating it. There would presumably be a base of operations and the Battle Bus would go where it was needed. In this way there would effectively be local division coverage all over the UK without the need to support multiple physical locations.
However, Article 7(3) UPC notes that the contracting member state will designate the seat of the local division and so it is not immediately clear how the travelling assize model might work [Unless the Minister was suggesting that the seat of the division would literally be a seat..on the bus…sorry]. Anyway, IPcopy looks forward to hearing more concrete details in this regard from the Government. In the meantime, if anyone out there in the blogosphere has heard more then please let us know.
If the UK is eligible for multiple local divisions it would seem right that these should be spread around the country rather than being clustered in London. For those concerned about the potential lack of cases or expertise for such divisions then I can do no better than (mis-)quote Field of Dreams and say “If you build it, they will come”.
The two sessions of the Committee yesterday covered the less controversial aspects of the IP Bill. The next session which is scheduled for tomorrow will tackle the Big One – Clause 13. yesterday’s session was a fairly good-natured affair however and the Chair managed to squeeze a couple of jokes in. Although the Administration in Scotland was discussed he highlighted that “other devolved Administrations are available” and, clearly with one eye on the patent attorney crowd, he noted that “there was no lack of novelty” in Mr Wishart’s contributions. An Open Mike session at the Comedy Club surely beckons.
Mark Richardson 29 January 2014