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European Commission agrees proposal to pave way for Unified Patent Court


European Union ministers have reached an agreement to update rules surrounding jurisdictions of courts in a bid to speed-up the implementation of the Unified Patent Court (UPC).

The European Commission said earlier this year it would need to update the Brussels I Regulation, which regulates which courts have jurisdiction in legal disputes, in order to prepare for the UPC.

The recommendations, which will accommodate the UPC’s framework for court proceedings, are said to have been agreed in “record time.”

The proposals were approved by the EU’s council of ministers on December 6 but will still be required to go to the full parliament for a vote before they can be introduced into law.

“By making changes to the rules on recognition of judgements, we are paving the way for the new UPC to begin its work,” said Viviane Reding, the commissions justice commissioner.

Michel Barnier, internal market commissioner, added that another “decisive step” has been made towards the UPC becoming a reality, which would ensure much greater consistency in the way patent litigation is conducted in the EU.

“This shows that the single market is progressing and serving innovation and ultimately for growth and jobs," Barnier added.

The commission is also encouraging member states to ratify the UPC Agreement as quickly as possible.

Paul England, professional support lawyer at Taylor Wessing LLP in London, said “the quick approval of the amendments to the Brussels I Regulation reflects the political momentum now behind the UPC and Unitary Patent package.”

He added that the amendments are intended to fit the UPC into the “existing jurisdictional framework” of the EU and are “technical rather than political.”

“There is no sign at present that the progress of these amendments will be delayed by any difficulties in the European Parliament,” said England, who highlighted that some questions about the amendments' “precise effect” had been raised by commentators.

In order to be implemented, the UPC will need to be ratified by at least 13 member states and must have the backing of the UK, France and Germany.

In August, Austria became the first EU member state to ratify the UPC Agreement.

“The hint that the commission is encouraging the member states to ratify the UPC Agreement … seems to hint at some behind the scenes pressure being applied to the contracting member states,” England said.

“This may be needed if the 12 ratifications now necessary, including France, Germany and the UK, are to be obtained in time to bring the court into force by the 2015 date that the preparatory committee is aiming for.” 

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