Representation before the Unified Patent Court

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The European Patent Office and EU Member States are finalising the detail for the establishment of the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court, which will amount to the biggest overhaul of European patent law in decades.

The new regime will establish a single approach to patent registration and litigation across participating EU Member States. Under the current regime, national courts and authorities are competent to decide on the infringement and validity of European patents. Divergent national systems create enforcement difficulties and encourage forum shopping as parties look to exploit differences in national law and procedure to their advantage.

The establishment of the Unified Patent Court has been, to say the least, protracted but there is no a feeling that the end may at last be in sight, with early 2017 being trailed as the likely establishment date. One of the most recent announcements relating to the Court concerns representation.

Parties will not be able to appear before the Court without representation. The answer to the question of who may be a qualified representative has now been confirmed. Qualified European patent attorneys and UK qualified solicitors and barristers will be able to represent clients before the Court. This is both wide and welcome and should result in the Court becoming more accessible to patent owners than might have been the case had the qualification requirements been more narrowly drawn.

The wide range of potential qualified representatives makes sense.  Patent disputes invariably, of course, involve technical detail but they may also extend beyond the confines of patent law to, for example, competition law or contract law or disputes about jurisdiction. This will require specialist advice which solicitors, in particular, are well positioned to give.

The Intellectual Property, Trade Marks and Design Team will keep you updated with further developments concerning the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court.