The Unified Patent Court will start operations on 1 June 2023
The date for the start of operations of the Unified Patent Court has now been finally set as Germany ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (“UPC Agreement”) on 17 February 2023. This was the final ratification required in order for the unitary patent system to enter into force in its entirety. Now altogether 17 EU member states have ratified the UPC Agreement. The Unified Patent Court is expected to start operations on 1 June 2023 when the UPC Agreement enters into force.The unitary patent system will enter into force at the same time.
Towards a unified European patent system
The Unified Patent Court will be the patent court common to all EU member states that have ratified the UPC Agreement. The Unified Patent Court will have exclusive jurisdiction over unitary patents, European patents, supplementary protection certificates of European patents and European patent applications, unless the opt-out mechanism described below is used. The Unified Patent Court will not have any jurisdiction over national patents or supplementary protection certificates granted to national patents. In Finland, the Market Court will still have jurisdiction over national Finnish patents and supplementary protection certificates granted for national Finnish patents in the future as well.
The unitary patent is a new, supranational option for patent protection in Europe. Currently, a European patent must be validated separately in each contracting state where patent protection is desired. This means in practice that a patent holder has a bundle of national patents. A unitary patent will only consist of a one single patent providing patent protection in the EU member states that have ratified the UPC Agreement.
Opt-out possibility began on 1 March 2023
All European patents, supplementary protection certificates of European patents and European patent applications will be transferred under jurisdiction of the Unified Patent Court in the beginning of June, unless they are specifically excluded from the Unified Patent Court’s jurisdiction by using the opt-out mechanism. It is possible to use the opt-out even before the UPC Agreement enters into force during the three-month sunrise period which started on 1 March 2023.
After the sunrise period, opt-out is possible during the seven-year transitional period. However, an opt-out can only be used ifno action has already been brought before the Unified Patent Court with respect to the European patent in question. It is highly recommended that companies start reviewing their patent portfolios now at the latest in order to exclude their patents from the Unified Patent Court’s jurisdiction during the sunrise period if considered necessary.