Three-way split for European patent court
A long battle over the jurisdiction and location of Europe’s new patent court appears to have been settled with a decision to split the court’s operations in three and separate it from the European Court of Justice.
Ministers at last week’s Brussels summit agreed that the seat of the Unified Patent Court would be in Paris. However, under an agreement proposed by Herman Van Rompuy, president of the EU Council, London will host one of two Central Division sections, dealing with chemistry and pharmaceuticals. The other section, dealing with mechanical engineering, will go to Munich.
Meanwhile, the council bowed to British demands that the European Court of Justice should not have final jurisdiction in the unified patent regime. The CBI welcomed the decision. Matthew Fell, director for competitive markets, said: ‘Businesses will be reassured that the European patent scheme will not fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice because of the risks involved in a non-specialised court having a say in decisions over their intellectual property.’
However, specialist lawyers warned of potential problems ahead. Richard Willoughby, patent litigation partner at City firm Rouse, described the package as ‘an interesting compromise’. He said the location of the court was not the most important decision.
While the split in the court’s Central Division would be welcomed by many, ‘questions remain as to whether it will work in practice'. 'How the court will be resourced and funded, thus how much it will actually cost to run and use, is completely unclear in any case,’ Willoughby said.
He said concerns remain over how infringement actions will operate in the new regime. ‘In particular, the vexed issue of “bifurcation” - whereby a validity challenged is heard separately from an infringement claim - has not been addressed to the satisfaction of some industries, who wanted to see this separation removed.’
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