The effect of an opt out under Article 83 of the agreement on a Unified Patent Court
P. van Gemert en W. Pors, The effect of an opt out under Article 83 of the agreement on a Unified Patent Court on Jurisdiction for decisions on the merits and preliminary injunctions
Een bijdrage van Peter van Gemert en Wouter Pors, Bird & Bird.
1. The Unified Patent Court and the issue of Article 83
Since the Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2012, implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection (Unitary Patent Regulation) and the Council Regulation (EU) No 1260/2012 of 17 December 2012, implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation ar-rangements (Regulation on Translation Arrangements) have been adopted in December 2012 and following that the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC Agreement) was signed on 19 February 2013, the creation of a Unitary Patent and of a Unified Patent Court to enforce it seem to be making steady progress towards implementation, which is expected early 2015. As of then, Unitary Patents, with effect in all Member States partici-pating in the enhanced cooperation can be obtained and the first action can then be launched in the Unified Patent Court.
It is clear that the Unified Patent Court will have exclusive jurisdiction for the infringe-ment and validity of Unitary Patents right from the start, without any exception. In addi-tion to that, the Court is also intended to have exclusive jurisdiction for traditional Euro-pean patents, which will remain a permanent alternative for the Unitary Patent. Howev-er, giving unconditional exclusive jurisdiction for those patents to a court that does not exist yet and that will apply rules that are not yet completely known was one step too far. Therefore, the UPC Agreement contains a transitional regime which will initially apply for a period of at least 7 years, but may even be prolonged.
2. The effect of an opt out on actions on the merits
Basically there are two possible interpretations. First, the phrase “opt out from the exclu-sive competence” may simply have been worded that way because Article 32 contains the phrase that “the Court shall have exclusive competence in respect of” and may thus have been intended as a simple reference to the competence of the Court in general, which happens to include the word “exclusive” in Article 32. This interpretation would indeed mean that an opt out for a given traditional European patent fully blocks out the Unified Patent Court’s competence with regard to that patent.
3. Preliminary injunctions
The issue gets even more complicated in case of a preliminary injunction. Article 24(1)a UPCA provides that Union law takes priority over the UPC Agreement and Article 31 UP-CA provides that jurisdiction shall be established in accordance with the Brussels I Regu-lation. Also, in view of the light of Article 5 Unitary Patent Regulation and its history, it is quite clear that both the European Union and the contracting Member States of the en-hanced cooperation agreed that Union law should have priority. Now, Article 35 of the Brussels I Regulation (recast) provides that “application may be made to the courts of a Member State for such provisional, including protective, measures as may be available under the law of that Member State, even if the courts of another Member State have jurisdiction as to the substance of the matter”. Under Consideration 11 of the Brussels I Regulation (recast) and certainly under the proposed Brussels I Amendment it is clear the Unified Patent Court is a court as meant in Article 35.