Germany finalises its approval of the Unified Patent Court
Operations are due to begin on 1 June 2023
Germany ratified the agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) on 17 February, which will begin operations on 1 June 2023 following a three-month sunrise period. The UPC will have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases on the infringement and validity of European patents and the new unitary patent being launched alongside the UPC.
All existing European patents and pending European patent applications will automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the UPC, unless they are actively opted out. The sunrise period, which begins on 1 March, provides an opportunity for patent holders to opt-out any European patents in order to avoid falling under the jurisdiction of the UPC.
UPC decisions will be applicable in all participating member states. In February 2013, 24 EU member states signed the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court, which set up the UPC. However, since then the UPC has faced a number of challenges including constitutional complaints and Brexit. Despite being signed by 24 of the then 27 EU member states in 2013, only 17 member states have ratified the UPC so far, which means that UPC decisions will only be applicable in the following countries: Germany, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, and Slovenia.
The EU member states that have not yet agreed to join the UPC are: Spain, Poland, and Croatia. The EU member states that have signed the agreement but have not yet ratified it are: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, and Slovakia. The UK announced in 2020 following its withdrawal from the European Union that the country would not be seeking involvement in the UPC system as it would be inconsistent with the UK’s aims of becoming an independent self-governing nation.
Commenting on the announcement, Germany’s Federal Minister of Justice Dr. Marco Buschmann said, “As of today, innovation protection in Europe will be raised to a new level. From June 1st, unitary patent protection will open up in Europe, with disputes being decided in proceedings before the Unified Patent Court with immediate effect for all participating member states. In this way, innovative companies can effectively protect their inventions in the common market in a contemporary way across borders. This strengthens future viability and innovative strength in Germany and Europe.”