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Unitary patent system – Scuttlebutt*

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EU flagThere’s not been much hard news recently regarding the unitary patent system so we’re going to take a leaf out of the 24 Hour Rolling News Playbook and start speculating away until something actually happens again…..

UK Ratification in March 2015?

There are slots in the parliamentary calendar in the autumn and spring where it is apparently easier to put matters in front of parliament but the latest suggestion that we’ve heard is that the UK will ratify the UPC Agreement in March 2015 which will be around 2 months before the general election.

Although ratification may take place in March next year we understand that the UK will not immediately deposit its instrument of ratification until such time as the necessary arrangements for the system are in place (court buildings, judges etc.)

ipcopy has idly wondered whether the Prime Minister’s success in securing London as one of the locations for the central division may be highlighted during the election run-in as an example of the UK re-negotiating rights with Europe. Of course, on the flip side we could see arguments that the UK is in the process of giving up some sovereign rights to Europe. The Government’s position on this is (probably/possibly) that we’ve not giving powers away to Europe but we’re instead giving powers to a new judicial system. Of course, that’s not stopped some countries within the system (e.g. Ireland and Denmark) deciding that giving up such powers requires a referendum.

We doubt of course that “patents” will form part of the election campaigning landscape but just in case they do brace yourselves for mainstream news articles that explain how a “new European trade marks court will soon allow you to copyright your inventions throughout Europe”.

Unitary patent renewal fee

The EPO seem to be introducing a new phrase (1, 2) when discussing unitary patent renewal fees: “Higher than you’d hoped but lower than you’d feared.” Catchy! Otherwise, no news here.

Location location location 

The UK is apparently looking for flexible office space to host the central division of the UPC in London (serviced office anyone?). The UK is apparently looking at facilities with EPO “opposition style” rooms, e.g. a boardroom with translator booths. There will be some more traditional court style spaces but predominantly we understand London’s central division will be set up “EPO style”.

Rules Consultation

The public consultation on the 16th draft of the Rules of Procedure of the Unified Patent Court is now looking like it will be in Autumn 2014. As with other aspects of the system this represents another delay but ipcopy notes that the timetable is now apparently being presented at a seasonal level of detail! Not only is the window for the consultation no more specific than “the autumn” but we have now slipped two whole seasons from Spring to Autumn!

Representation Consultation

The UK seems it will run a consultation in the next couple of months on the issue of representation rights at the UPC. Under Article 48 of the Unified Patent Court Agreement, EPAs will not automatically gain rights of representation at the UPC and will require either a European Patent Litigation Certificate or similar qualifications.

UPC Judges

Processing of all the applications for UPC judges may be nearing an end and we may, possibly, see a list of candidates during the summer.

Unitary Patent Opt-out Fee

This next rumour should probably be regarded with as much suspicion as a Ponzi scheme run by a Ferengi loan shark.

The EPO apparently are pushing for a punitive opt out fee. The suggestion we’ve heard with respect to already validated EP bundle patents is for a fee of 100-200 Euros per validated patent property. So, if your EP patent granted and you then validated in UK, France and Germany you’d be looking at an opt out fee between 300-600 Euros but if you’d validated in 10 countries you’d be looking at a fee between 1000-2000 Euros.

We can’t help thinking we’ve mis-heard this rumour. The desire (from the EPO) for the fee to be punitive has been heard from more than one source but the rest of the rumour seems too unlikely.

Mark Richardson   22 May 2014

* see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scuttlebutt for a definition of scuttlebutt.


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