20 October 2022

Unified Patent Court confirms panel of 85 judges is now in place

Data and commentary provided by Mathys & Squire, as published in Legal Week, provides an update on the appointment of Unified Patent Court judges.

An extended version of the press release is available below.

The Unified Patent Court – Europe’s new single point of contact for patent enforcement – took a major step forward with the confirmation that 85 of its judges from across the EU have now accepted positions on the court.

Mathys & Squire, the leading intellectual property law firm, says that after years of delay, the Unified Patent Court is now fast approaching and that patent holders worldwide cannot afford to ignore it.

The UPC confirmed the appointment of 85 judges on the evening of October 19 after receiving over 1,000 initial applications for the positions. Mathys & Squire says that the nationalities of the judges reflect where the ‘hotspots’ of patent litigation are in Europe, and where the pool of potential judges is largest. Of the 85 judges appointed, the countries with the greatest representation are:

• Germany 27
• France 17
• Italy 11
• Netherlands 7
• Belgium 5
• Denmark 4
• Finland 4
• Sweden 4

A further judge has both French and German nationality. Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Portugal and Slovenia are each represented by a single judge. Three more judges remain to be appointed before the commencement of the court’s operations – one each in Paris, Munich and Copenhagen. Four of the countries participating in the UPC (Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta) are not represented by any judges. Other EU countries are not represented as they have not yet agreed to participate in the UPC. Ireland is holding a referendum to decide whether to join the court, which is expected to take place in 2023 or 2024.

Under the UPC, patent holders can enforce a European patent across all participating countries through a single litigation procedure under the regime of the UPC. Estimated costs for such a claim will be slightly higher than litigating in one single country, but the UPC will be able to grant supranational injunctions as well as damages.

Businesses that anticipate having to defend their IP may wish to opt out of having their current intellectual property covered by the UPC. Opting out will prevent competitors from ‘knocking out’ their patent across Europe in a single judgement in the UPC.

The UPC was discussed for a long time and first agreed in 2013 but was held up for years by the domestic ratification processes of the member states. With the appointment of judges, the long-awaited court has cleared one major hurdle on the road to becoming fully operational.

Andreas Wietzke, Partner at Mathys & Squire says: “With the successful appointment of judges, one major obstacle to the operation of the UPC across the EU has been overcome. These judges will play a key role in setting early UPC precedents and determining the future of intellectual property enforcement in Europe.”

“The new court will provide a simplified and cost-efficient patent litigation system for anyone holding a European patent.”

“Businesses with patents pending or granted in Europe can no longer afford to ignore the UPC. They need to ensure they have the right strategy in place to protect their IP and the value of their business.”