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Most of the EU member state-countries have already signed on to ratify the Unified Patent Court agreement and only a few more states are left before this thing becomes reality. Rumor has it that Germany and the UK are already inking up and the UPC will be up and running by 2017.
A Unified Patent System for Europe
The project is an ambitious one which aims to inject some uniformity into the G8 countries. The EU Unitary Patent and the launch of its court will have jurisdiction over 420 million people, creating a system that rivals America.
Ostensibly, one of the primary goals was to reduce patent and litigation costs, but it would be naive to believe that lawmakers did not also push the project with an eye to increasing Europe's international IP standing. Uniformity will have a tendency to draw Europe as a venue.
The Opinion of One Patent Litigator
Christian Paul, an attorney with Jones Day offered his opinion to Inside Counsel and underscored the significance of the new court. According to his remarks, it seems that he is convinced that in-house firms will have to beef up their overall competence and breadth of knowledge of case law.
Why? The new system will be streamlined. Before, law firms and litigators often were faced with having to juggle and handle multiple suits in various EU jurisdictions -- resulting in at least some breathing room in bringing patent suits.
The new system will actually allow all petitions to be brought in a single suit. It sounds nice, but it should take some getting used to. This should also cut down on "bifurcation" (the splitting of legal issues at different proceedings) and further streamline litigation. Oh, and getting more comfortable talking about tech will only help, too.
European Forum Shopping
Currently, the language of the UPC laws allow local judges significant wiggle room as to how they handle their proceedings. Different judges from different locales (and indeed, different languages) will most likely tend to interpret certain rules more in line with local custom. In-house attorneys should keep in mind that certain courts within the UPC could spring up as being "patent friendly" and be the situs of European forum shopping.
Let's not point any fingers. It's not as if Americans have never seen this before.