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The European Unitary Patent System 

Signalling the most radical change in European patent practice, the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA) has created a new court system in Europe. The European Regulation on a European Patent with Unitary Effect has also introduced a new Unitary Patent (UP),  a single patent right valid in all participating member states. 

The system is designed to provide a dedicated court (Unified Patent Court – UPC) to enforce patents in a single, efficient procedure with effect for all participating member states. The UPC can also revoke patents under its jurisdiction with effect for all national validations of the participating member states. It has jurisdiction over the new UP as well as over traditional European Patents unless they are opted-out of UPC system. Following expiry of a transitional period, the UPC will eventually become the only court in which to litigate European Patents (other than national patents). The UPC saves companies from needing to apply for patent and court remedies separately in each and every country where they want protection.

The UPC aims at concluding first instance proceedings on the merits in the timeframe of about a year. It offers effective remedies including injunctions, interim measures and evidentiary proceedings. On the defensive side, it provides a central revocation action and the possibility for filing of protective letters or negative declaratory actions. Its highly specialized legal patent judges and technical judges promise high-quality decisions.

The UPC thus offers an additional key element in your global patent litigation strategy. A UPC action will cover the vast majority of Europe, a region exceeding the size of the US market in terms of population and cumulative GDP. We are here to help you navigate this new system and make the best use of it.

Development & Current status

It all began with the signature of the UPCA, which was signed by 24 of the then 27 European Union Member States on 19 February 2013. Since then the establishment of the UPC had to face many challenges, such as the Brexit and constitutional complaints in Germany before it finally came to life on 1 June 2023. To date, 17 of the signatory states have ratified the UPCA.

Understanding the court structure

The UPC comprises a Court of First Instance and a Court of Appeal. The Court of First Instance has several Local and Regional Divisions in the participating member states and a Central Division with locations in Paris, Munich and (as of 2024) Milan. See here for more details.

The Local and Regional Divisions will hear infringement cases including revocation counter claims. The Central Division is mainly competent for (standalone) revocation actions and declaratory actions for non-infringement but can in certain situations also hear infringement cases.

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UPC – Frequently asked questions

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Our patent litigation lawyers are best-positioned to advise and represent clients with regard to the UPC

The UPC merges the procedural features of many European jurisdictions and represents a patchwork of national traditions, with judicial benches reflecting that diversity. Our multinational teams of first-class patent litigators and technically qualified patent attorneys bring together experience from all relevant jurisdictions. We provide the geographical coverage and depth of resource to support our clients, no matter how big the case. Our expert practitioners are steeped in pan-European and national patent litigation and are located both in and out of the UPC member states, meaning we can assist our clients both in the UPC and in parallel national proceedings in non-UPC jurisdictions. Our European litigators work together as a seamless unit to prepare and fight our clients’ cases when the pressure is on. This European offering is complemented by our significant US and China offering, providing global representation to our clients and operating as one team to support our clients and their strategic needs.