Looking ahead, the various parts of the package are likely to come into force in 2014 (according to the official timescale anyway). Over the coming 12-24 months, there are a number of keys dates to note.
- January 2013 – the 12th draft of Rules of Procedure relating to the unified patent court was circulated last month
- February 2013 – Public consultation for the Rules of Procedure relating to the unified patent court – this is apparently due to commence February 2013
- Ratification of the unified patent court agreement – this agreement will be open for signature by participating member states from February 19, 2013
- June 2013 – the consultation on the Rules of Procedure is expected to finish such that the rules can be finalised in June
- Late 2013 onwards – ratification of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement by at least 13 Member States (including UK, Germany and France) is expected by the European Commission [ipcopymark: this official timescale for ratification is extremely ambitious given the amount of work needed to set up the court, not to mention potential issues arising from the above public consultation. It is noted that Poland appears to be getting cold feet and according to this tweet the German authorities do not anticipate ratification happening this year. What effect, if any, the UK’s hokey-cokey referendum will have on proceedings is currently unknown]
- January 2014 onwards
- Unitary Patent Regulations enter into force – 1 January 2014 or the date of entry into force of the UPC Agreement, whichever is the later
- UPC Agreement enters into force 1 January 2014 or on the first day of the fourth month after the 13th deposit or on the first day of the 4th month after the date of entry into force of the amendments to Regulation (EC) 1215/2012, whichever is latest [ipcopymark: this last condition is the subject of a post on IPKat which suggests that the regulation in question has not been amended yet]
- 2014? Grant of the first European Patent with Unitary effect. The European Commission hope this will occur from April 2014. The exact date however is probably going to be dependent on the speed of ratification of the UPC agreement by the required 13 member states (including DE, FR and GB)
It is noted that following the entry into force of the unified patent court agreement there will be transitional arrangements in respect of the unified patent court which will last for an initial 7 year period.
So, in summary, the official target date for the first unitary patent to issue is April 2014. It is anticipated however that it could well take longer than this.
*The unitary patent package is composed of a ‘package’ of Regulations and Agreements. The parts of the package are: (1) the Regulation creating the Unitary Patent, (2) the Regulation on translation requirements relating thereto, (3) the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement [this agreement will be associated with the Rules of Procedure relating to the Court].
The two Regulations and the Agreement were endorsed by the Competitiveness Council on December 10, 2012 and adopted by the European Parliament on December 11, 2012 and by the Council on December 17, 2012. The Rules of Procedure are yet to be finalised.