27 June 2023

Milan officially confirmed as host city for third branch of UPC Central Division

According to an announcement this week from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, agreement has officially been reached to situate a third branch of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Central Division in Milan. The Milan branch of the Central Division is expected to open by June 2024. This will supplement the two branches in Paris and Munich which opened on 1 June 2023.

Originally the third branch of the UPC Central Division was destined for London, but after the UK withdrew from the UPC system in the wake of Brexit a decision was taken to relocate this branch. Milan has been rumoured to be the front-runner for several years, but negotiations seem to have been protracted. Notably, the announcement from the Italian government does not confirm which technical areas will fall within the competence of the new Milanese branch. London was originally to have competence for cases falling under IPC classifications A and C, relating broadly to chemistry, materials, life sciences and pharmaceuticals. For the time being these have been divided between Paris and Munich, and it is rumoured that those two branches might be seeking to hold on to some of that work even after Milan opens its doors. It is possible that discussions in that respect may be ongoing.

The Central Division of the UPC is the division with competence by default for actions concerning patent revocation and declarations of non-infringement. Other actions including infringement actions and applications for preliminary injunctions are, by default, the competence of the UPC’s Local and Regional Divisions. However, the Central Division has competence for these types of action in some circumstances, for example if the defendant is located in a country which is not party to the UPC Agreement, or if there is no local or regional division with competence to hear the case in the relevant UPC country/countries.

Each of Paris, Munich and Milan also already hosts a local division of the UPC, therefore the addition of a branch of the Central Division is likely to cement Milan’s position as a major venue for patent litigation under the new system.