Yesterday was a historic day. The Agreement for a Unified European Patent Court has been signed, after months of wrangling. Several European Presidents have sought it as a feather in their cap, and have not quite made it. But at last political energy has overcome commercial misgivings -- at least to get a signature. We still have to wait for the agreement to be ratified - by 13 Member States, including France, Germany and the UK (the three largest patent filing countries in the EU). Poland (amongst a small group of other countries) have not yet signed, believed to be because they have a report that it does not make good economic sense. Pressure will grow in the UK for a full economic impact assessment to be carried out before ratification.
The Agreement provides for a "single" court for Unified Patents (Regulation adopted in 17 December 2012 -- but with still some significant hurdles like how it is financed) and for EPC Patents, unless they are opted out. The Court will have national and, for some groups of countries, regional divisions, as well as a central division divided between France, Germany and the UK.
The procedural rules are substantially drafted, and will be subject to consultation shortly. One area which is sure to crop up is the impact of the arrangements on legal professional privilege: companies are concerned that these could put them at risk of discovery applications in relation to the USA, to such an extent that, unless this is resolved, some companies are considering only applying for national patents in Europe.
The aim is to have a relatively short and low cost procedure, which will make decisions applicable throughout the EU. Good for EU wide businesses, but could be a deteriment to businesses primarily operating in one Member State. More details and comments later.