Pursuant to an international agreement concluded outside the EU institutional framework, 24 European Union member states have now agreed to establish a Unified Patent Court (UPC) that will ensure the uniform applicability of patent law throughout the territories of the signatory countries. The new court will avoid the occurrence of multiple court cases with regard to the same patent in different member states. This will also prevent contradictory court rulings on the same issues. It will also reduce costs of patent litigation. The UPC will be a court common to the contracting member states and thus subject to the same obligations under Union law as any national court. Following the signing of the agreement, the ratification process by national parliaments can start. At least 13 member states will have to ratify the agreement for it to enter into force. Poland and Spain did not sign the agreement. These member states can nevertheless still accede to the agreement at a later date.
The Central Division of the Court of First Instance will be located in Paris (France) with specialised sections in London (United Kingdom) and Munich (Germany). The UPC is the third element of the “patent package”. The two regulations establishing enhanced cooperation for unitary patent protection and its translation arrangements were adopted on 17 December 2012. It is expected that the establishment of a unitary patent system valid across the EU will contribute to an increase in patent activity, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises. It will also contribute significantly to lowering the costs associated with obtaining a patent in the EU.