The UPC is a centralised court for hearing matters in relation to European patents. This is instead of these matters being heard by individual national courts.
This is only relevant for those EU member states which have ratified the UPC. The UK is not in the EU and so this does not affect UK patents or European patents in the UK.
For those European patents that have not opted out, the UPC will be responsible for hearing matters, such as infringement and validity proceedings, in relation to European patents in those EU member states which have ratified the UPC Agreement. This is for both unitary patents and nationally validated European patents.
The UPC only applies to those EU member states which have ratified the UPC Agreement and does not apply to national patents which were obtained directly from a national patent office.
For a current list of EU member states which have ratified the UPC Agreement and are, therefore, part of the UPC, see here.
The UPC is currently expected to start on 1 April 2023.
An advantage of the UPC is that matters can be dealt with centrally for a large number of European states at once, rather than having separate national proceedings in each member state. Disadvantages include that the UPC has not yet been tested and that, whilst the holder of a European patent could enforce their patent in multiple states in a single proceedings, the European patent could alternatively be found invalid in multiple states in a single proceedings.
The ability to opt out of the UPC exists for a 7 year transitional period, as long as proceedings have not started before the UPC. Once opted out, it will be possible to opt back in at any time, unless proceedings have been started before a national court. Accordingly, unless there is a particular desire to be part of the UPC, especially at this early stage, most applicants are expected to opt out of the UPC to keep their options open.
It will be possible to opt-out of the UPC once a “sunrise” period starts, this being 3 months before the UPC starts. Under current expectations, the sunrise period will start on 1 January 2023.
UNIFIED PATENT COURT (UPC)