Ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union and, in effect, withdrew itself from the Unified Patents Court Agreement, the question has been circulating as to where the “third centre” of the Central Division of the UPC would be based.
The original scheme was for the three divisions to be hosted in the member states with the highest patent activity, and those countries were Germany, the UK and France. Extending that rule after the departure of the UK, the next in line was Italy, but that gave rise to some concern in certain quarters.
UK lawyers initially sought ways in which the UK could maintain its membership and remain within the UPC, allowing it to host the third court. However, the government put a stop to that, so the question was at large again.
The Netherlands made a strong case based on the experience of its judiciary, and Ireland also put up a case based on its English language, common law roots, and friendship with the USA, likely to be the biggest customer of the new court outside Europe. Neither of those “bids” proceeded, in Ireland’s case not least because it has not yet ratified the UPC Agreement.
So attention turned back to Italy. There was a suggestion in some quarters that there was no need for a third court, and that Munich and Paris could “divide the spoils” between themselves. Indeed, within the last week there was what appeared to be an announcement to that effect.
However, today we have the final word – the third court in the Central Division will be in Milan. There is no word yet as to the areas of competence which will be based there. Broadly speaking, London was due to host the Life Sciences cases, with Engineering in Munich and Tech in Paris. It must be possible that the allocation will change (and indeed the announcement earlier this week suggests as much), rather than passing all the Life Sciences cases to Milan. But for that detail we will have to wait and see.
For now, at last, the uncertainty is over and Milan can prepare to host the third court of the Central Division of the Unified Patents Court. No doubt the corks are popping in Milan today!
About the author(s)
Gordon Harris is part of the Global IP Leadership Team for Gowling WLG, working across all the firm's offices to help build the practice and develop new specialisms.
Alex has significant experience in patent litigation and licensing matters in the telecommunications, engineering and tech fields. Much of his experience has been multi-jurisdictional in nature.