The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is a single, specialized patent court common to the UP/UPC-participating countries, with the aim of consistent and effective procedures and decisions on validity and infringement of patents within that group of countries, including granting of provisional enforcement measures and awarding of damages. A decision by the UPC has direct effect in all the participating countries where the respective European patent is in force, regardless of the patent being validated with unitary effect or as a bundle of national validations.
The UPC has exclusive jurisdiction over Unitary Patents (UP), and no jurisdiction outside the area of the UP/UPC-participating countries. Further, the UPC initially co-exists with national courts with non-exclusive jurisdiction for traditionally validated European patents within the UP/UPC-participating countries. After a transitional period, which extends at least until 2030, the UPC will get exclusive jurisdiction also over traditionally validated European patents in the participating countries.
During the transitional period, it is possible to opt out a traditionally validated European patent from the UPC’s jurisdiction, thereby leaving only the national courts as competent with respect to the patent in question. An opt-out does not expire but can be withdrawn for the patent to again fall under the jurisdiction of the UPC. Opt-out and withdrawal of opt-out is only possible once, and only as long as no court action has been initiated for the respective patent. It is not possible to opt-out a Unitary patent from the jurisdiction of the UPC.
The UPC includes a Court of First Instance and a Court of Appeal. The first instance operates branches, called divisions, in most of the participating countries to accommodate the users, and applies a rotation system of patent judges to ensure that the court’s practice and decisions stay harmonized throughout all its branches.
The judges of the UPC include a mix of legally qualified judges and technically qualified judges to appreciate the technical aspects inherent to patents and patent infringement questions, and all the judges are experienced, former national judges or patent attorneys to guarantee a high quality of decisions in the specialized patent court.
The UPC is aiming at providing expedient and highly effective procedures, with the goal to process a case in the first instance branches in one year. This requires short deadlines putting some pressure on the parties, but also ensures that justice and certainty for the parties is reached relatively soon compared to many national patent courts.