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UPC Structure – local, regional and central divisions

11 October 2022 | Europe
Legal Briefings

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The UPC will have a Court of First Instance (divided into local, regional and central divisions) and a Court of Appeal (Luxembourg). Cases will commence in any one of these divisions according to the subject matter and the prescribed division set out in the UPC Agreement and the UPC Rules.

The main seat of the central division will be Paris with further seats in Munich and one other participating member state (previously this was London until its recent withdrawal from the UPC system). The work of the central division will be divided according to the subject matter of the patent in dispute based on IPC classifications:

  • the seat previously assigned to London (but now possibly to be located in Milan) will deal with patents falling into International Patent Classification of WIPO sections (A) Human necessities (including pharmaceuticals but also foodstuffs, tobacco, clothes, furniture, footwear, some agriculture applications and sports and amusements and more) and (C) Chemistry (which includes genetic engineering) and Metallurgy.
  • Munich will hear cases involving patents in IPC class F, concerning mechanical engineering.
  • All other patent classifications will fall to be heard before the Paris central division, and Paris will take the content that would have gone to the London seat in the interim, until the third seat is confirmed.

LATEST ON LOCAL AND REGIONAL DIVISIONS

The UPC Administrative Committee has issued confirmation of the location of the various local and regional divisions of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) (see below).  Whilst all other participating states will have one local court (or participate in the Nordic-Baltic regional division announced), Germany will have three local division courts - Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Mannheim.

Under the UPC Agreement, Court of First Instance courts like these where there had been on average more than 50 patent cases a year under current national patent litigation proceedings in those states, were to have a judicial panel of three legally qualified judges, two of whom would be local nationals of that state (or of those states in the case of the regional division), plus one technically qualified judge.  The announcement from the Administrative Committee has therefore also confirmed the numbers of local legally qualified judges that each court will have (see below). For more on the structure of the UPC courts and the judiciary see the Court Structure section of our UPC Hub.

The Administrative Committee's decision lists the following locations for local divisions of the Court of First Instance of the UPC - and the numbers of legally qualified judges to be on the panel at each:

  1. Vienna, Austria – 1 Legally Qualified Judge
  2. Brussels, Belgium – 1 Legally Qualified Judge
  3. Copenhagen, Denmark – 1 Legally Qualified Judge
  4. Helsinki, Finland – 1 Legally Qualified Judge
  5. Paris, France – 2 Legally Qualified Judges
  6. Düsseldorf, Germany – 2 Legally Qualified Judges
  7. Hamburg, Germany – 2 Legally Qualified Judges
  8. Mannheim, Germany – 2 Legally Qualified Judges
  9. Munich, Germany – 2 Legally Qualified Judges
  10. Milan, Italy – 2 Legally Qualified Judges
  11. Lisbon, Portugal – 1 Legally Qualified Judge
  12. Ljubljana, Slovenia – 1 Legally Qualified Judge
  13. The Hague, The Netherlands – 2 Legally Qualified Judges

In addition, one regional division of the Court of First Instance of the Unified Patent Court will be established: the Nordic-Baltic regional division, mainly located in Stockholm, with two legally qualified judges. This regional division is expected to cover cases from Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The Courts of First Instance announced cover all the states that are have currently fully ratified the UPC Agreement.   Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia which are yet to do so, but are expected to participate in the longer term, cannot have their court locations confirmed until they do fully ratify of course.  The seats of the central division are currently fixed as Paris and Munich, with the location of the third seat which was to have been London still undecided, although Milan looks to be a front runner.

In terms of the languages of each court, it is thought that

  • Finland is likely to use Finnish as a designated language alongside English in its local division court.
  • Denmark plans to use Danish and English as languages of the proceedings in its local division.
  • The Belgian local division will operate in Dutch, English, French and German.
  • Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will use English in the Nordic-Baltic regional division

A training facility for judges has also been established in Budapest.

For more on the UPC and unitary patent see our series of feature articles published in PLC Magazine's March and April editions 2022 and shared in pdf form on our IP blog here.

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