Media Briefing Note: Agreement on Central Court Paves Way for Unitary EU Patent System

LONDON, 2 JULY 2012 – After decades of discussions, the future of the EU's patent system was concluded on Friday (29 June 2012) after it was decided where the Central Division of the European Unified Patent Court will be located.  It also appears that those discussions concluded that the contentious provisions in the Regulation (articles 6-8) concerning infringement are deleted.

It has been decided that the Central Division will sit in Paris, with specialised branches in Munich, handling cases involving mechanical engineering and in London, dealing with chemical cases, which includes pharmaceuticals and human necessities.

  • Having a unitary patent means that companies can have a patent which is enforceable throughout most of the EU in one place, instead of the current requirement to enforce in each of the member states.
  • The European Council has said that the new court system will reduce patent litigation costs for European companies by a total of approximately £233 million (EUR289 million) each year.

Daniel Brook, a partner in Hogan Lovells IPMT group, commented: "Whilst there are a number of potential obstacles and uncertainties surrounding this project, including the pending CJEU complaints made by Spain and Italy, the underlying principle is a sound one and hopefully it can be made to work."

Hogan Lovells has created a dedicated UPC microsite to keep you up-to-date with all the changes and developments. To visit, please go to


The Unified Patent Court is part of the unitary patent system that has two other elements: a regulation on the unitary patent itself and a regulation on translation arrangements for that patent. Those regulations were agreed upon last December.

A total of 25 countries out of the 27 European Union members voted to go ahead with the unitary patent, using a procedure called enhanced cooperation.  This procedure allows at least eight member states to band together to form their own policies if they cannot get the others to agree.

Spain and Italy have been opposing the plans for a single EU patent because it would remove the requirement to translate the single patent into all EU languages, keeping only English, French and German as the official languages of the Unitary Patent.

The future Unitary Patent will be valid throughout the territory of the 25 EU member states in the language in which it has been granted. Spain and Italy can join the scheme whenever they choose to.

Next Steps

  • In addition to the Unified Patent Court's central division, the Council said that the new patent system would need regional and local divisions but it has yet to decide where these will be and what relationship they would have to the central division under the new patent system.
  • It has been reported that the European Parliament will vote on the unitary patent "package" in July and the European Council will adopt the two regulations shortly thereafter.
  • The Parliamentary vote is essentially ceremonial, since the body does not have the authority to overturn the Council agreement.  However, the member states will have to sign the Unified Patent Court agreement in the second half of 2012.
  • If the agreement is ratified by a sufficient number of states - at least 13 nations - it will enter into force. If goes to plan the first patent title with unitary patent protection could be granted in 2014.

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