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1 June 2023

Welcome to the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court

After many years of fraught negotiations, geopolitical change, and more recently, technical challenges, the Unified Patent Court has now opened its doors. European patents can now be enforced across 17 participating countries in a single action, while third parties can also challenge patent validity in the same way. Proponents of the court believe this offers the opportunity for more robust and enforceable patent rights, while reducing the uncertainty that can arise from differing national practices. Others are concerned that the complex framework of an untested new system itself creates a risk of inconsistency.

Perhaps both sides are right, in the sense that the early period of this Court will be by definition an uncertain one, with winners and losers yet to be determined, but in the longer term there is hope for an environment which better rewards innovators. The question will be how long this initial period of flux lasts – those with an interest in the system will be closely watching developments over the next weeks and months.

What is clear, however, is that any technology company doing business in Europe needs to understand the impact this change has on their business. For example, the threat of third party patents may have increased markedly – should you be updating your freedom-to-operate strategy to consider revocation actions at the UPC, or perhaps consider filing protective letters? If you need advice on these questions, Venner Shipley – with its deep bench of qualified representatives before the court, long experience of advising both local and international clients on all matters of patent practice, and in-house litigation expertise – is perfectly placed to help.

For your own patent rights, you may wish to consider whether the Unitary Patent is right for you – this option is not essential to utilise the UPC, but may offer broader geographical protection than your current European strategy. You may also want to consider whether to opt-out your patents from the jurisdiction of the UPC as a pre-emptive defence against a putative revocation action. Again, it is vital to understand how these complex changes affect your business – yesterday’s assumptions may no longer be valid.

We at Venner Shipley are proud and excited to be part of this new era, and are confident that our clients will find that the same diligence, technical know-how and responsiveness they are used to will serve them as well in the future as it has in the past.

If you have more questions, please contact your usual Venner Shipley representative, or review our comprehensive Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court guides and recent Inside IP – UP and UPC special edition. Alternatively, feel free to email upc@vennershipley.co.uk.

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