It is almost four years since the Unified Patent Court Agreement was signed. Much of the hard work to make it a reality is now coming to fruition.
Last week the Preparatory Committee agreed some of the most critical aspects so that the court can come into being in 2017. Most important was agreement on the court fees schedule, support for SMEs and the levels of recoverable costs. The UK delegation, through 18 months of hard work, secured a zero opt-out fee. This means that those with existing European Patents will not have to pay not to use the system. Business told us this was one of their top priorities.
Another suite of legal rules (on the registry and advisory committee) was agreed alongside the guidelines for assessing the value of a case. Together with the agreed Rules of Procedure, these make up the backbone of the court. Last, but certainly not least, real progress has been made on judicial terms and conditions and flexibility on ways of working. The credibility of judges, and confidence in their judgments, will be key to the success of the UPC. Making sure that the very best from across the UK and Europe will be able to participate remains a key aim.
Meanwhile, progress is also being made in the UK. Construction is well underway to turn Aldgate Tower into a modern digital court. Secondary legislation to amend the Patents Act will be debated in Parliament on 1 and 2 March. With agreement on privileges and immunities also being reached at last week’s Preparatory Committee, secondary legislation to reflect this can now be introduced, allowing the UK to formally ratify the Court Agreement later this year.
Work on the case management system has moved rapidly since the tenders were awarded in July 2015, and it was also presented to the Preparatory Committee last week. The system has been developed with intensive user involvement including workshops across Europe, allowing legal and business representatives to trial the system and provide feedback on what they would like from it.