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2024년 5월 31일에 UPC 협정에 승인함으로써, 2024년 9월 1일부터 루마니아가 18번째 협약국으로 UPC에 가입하게 되었습니다.
해당 기사는 여기에서 읽을 수 있습니다 : 루마니아, 18번째 협약국이 되다.

Before the Paris Local Division, in a case where the defendant had forced an intervener into the proceedings pursuant to Rule 316A RoP (forced intervention), the intervener has obtained a period of one month for filing its Application to Intervene as well as for filing its Statement in Intervention. Contrary to Rule 316.2 RoP, which mentions a “further period” for filing the Statement in Intervention, the Court did not set any such further period.

Incidentally, the intervener’s one-month period for filing its Application to Intervene and its Statement in Intervention expired on March 19, 2024, which is almost identical to the end of the defendant’s three-month period for filing its Statement of Defence (March 18, 2024). The defendant’s Statement of Defence did not include a counterclaim for revocation of the patent.

The Court held that the intervener may not develop claims contrary to those of the party he supports and may not autonomously develop claims and procedural modalities different from those offered to the party it supports. Therefore, since the defendant’s term for filing a counterclaim also applies to the intervener, the intervener is not entitled to pose an own counterclaim after that term has expired. It would appear that, although not expressly stated, the Court considered that, in principle, an own counterclaim of the intervenient is admissible, albeit subject to the defendant’s terms.

In addition, the Court again rejected a request to change the language of the proceedings from French to English even though the language of the patent in question is English and the defendant itself, a French company and the only French party involved, previously and unsuccessfully had requested a change of the language of the proceedings from French to English. This shows that the bar for changing the language is very high.

Case number UPC_CFI_440/2023, order date May 6, 2024

In our view, the Court did not take sufficient account of the situation of the forced intervention. It is already challenging to set up a properly researched counterclaim of revocation within the three months granted to the defendant. To do so within one month could be considered outright impossible, especially as cooperation in a forced intervention cannot be expected. A corresponding obligation for the short term raises constitutional concerns.

Still, the possibility of a separate revocation action remains.

UPC의 첫 번째 판결을 계기로, 논란이 많았던 청구항 해석, 사실 제시 및 입증의 책임 부담, 진보성판단에 대한 UPC의 입장을 알아보도록 하겠습니다.

1 청구항 해석 – UPC 및 EPO판례

청구항 해석에 있어서 발명의 설명을 어느 정도까지 고려해야 하는지와 어떤 법적인 근거가 고려되어야 하는지는 현재 유럽 특허청의 소송 절차에서도 계속 논의되고 있는 주제입니다.

항소 위원회(Board of Appeal) 판례 T 1473/19 에 의하면, 심사 절차과 이의 제기 절차 모두에서 청구범위 확정 및 청구범위 해석을 함에 있어서Art. 69 EPC[1] 및 그와 관련된 Protocol Art. 1의 해석을 신뢰할 만하다고 판단했습니다. 또한, Art 69(1) EPC의 두번째 문장에 의하면 청구범위를 해석하는데 발명의 설명 및 도면이 사용되어야 하지만, 여전히 청구범위에 의해 우선적으로 결정됨을 명확히하고 있습니다. 또한 청구범위가 그 자체로 명확하기는 하지만 청구범위를 해석하는데 발명의 설명을 추가적으로 참조할 수 있다고도 제시하고 있습니다. 다만, ‘청구범위 우선주의’ 원칙에 따라 청구범위 특징의 해석에 있어서는 모호하지 않은(명확한) 청구항 문구가 명세서보다 우선시 되어야 하므로, 청구범위 해석을 위해 명세서를 참조(consult)하는 것은 청구범위가 모호한 경우로 제한합니다.

또한, 판례 T 0169/20에 의하면, Art. 84 EPC[2] , 특히 Art. 84 EPC의 두번째 문장과 Rule 42와 43 EPC[3] 의 규정은 특허 심사시 청구범위 기재불비에 대한 적절한 법적 근거를 제공하고 있고, Art. 69 EPC는 특허 등록 후 123(3) EPC[4] 에 근거하여 신규사항 추가의 적합성을 판단하거나 침해 소송에서 보호 범위를 결정하기 위한 목적으로 사용되는 것으로 판시하고 있습니다. 나아가, “청구항의 문구가 그 자체로 명확하고 기술적으로 합리적이라면 명세서에 비추어 해석할 필요도 없고 정당화할 필요도 없다”고 결론지었습니다. 특히, “발명의 설명이, 당업자가 청구항의 문구를 읽을 때 이해할 수 있는 범위를 넘어서서 발명의 대상을 제한하거나 변형하는데 사용되어서는 안된다”라고 제시하고 있습니다.

요약하면, 유럽 항소 위원회의 이 대표적인 판결들은 서로 다른 법적 근거(EPC 제69조 및 이에 대한 Protocol Art. 1 vs. Art. 84 EPC 및 규칙 42 및 43 EPC)를 적용하지만, 그로 인한 법적인 결과물은 내용적으로 유사합니다. 즉, 청구범위를 정의하는 것은 청구범위 그 자체이며, 발명의 설명은 모호한 특징을 해석하는 데에만 사용될 수 있습니다.

이와 관련해서 UPC에서 첫 번째 판결이 나왔으며, 청구범위 해석에 관한 UPC의 입장은 EPC의 판례와 다소 상이합니다:

유럽 통합 법원(UPC)의 항소 법원(CoA)은 UPC_CoA_335/2023 (정류) 판결문에서, Art. 69 EPC와 그 해석에 관한 Protocol (HEADNOTES 2, 첫 번째 문장)에 기반하여, “특허 청구범위는 (청구범위 해석의) 출발점일 뿐만 아니라 특허의 보호 범위를 결정하는 결정적인 근거가 된다”고 판시했습니다. 또한,”발명의 설명과 도면은 특허 청구의 모호성을 해결하기 위해서뿐만 아니라 청구범위의 해석을 위한 설명 보조 자료로 항상 사용되어야 한다”고 제시하고 있습니다. (GROUNDS FOR THE ORDER, 5.d) aa), 3번째 단락). 이는 청구범위의 특징이 모호한 경우에 대해서만 청구 범위 해석시 발명의 설명을 참조할 수 있다고 판시한, EPO의 항소 위원회의 기존 판례와는 사뭇 다른 입장입니다. 나아가, UPC의 항소 법원은 “특허권자에 대한 적절한 보호와 제3자에 대한 충분한 법적 확실성을 결합하는 것”이 청구범위 해석의 목적이라고 명시하고 있습니다. (GROUNDS FOR THE ORDER, 5.d) aa), 6번째 단락).

해당 판결문에 의하면, “세포나 조직에서 추출되었지만 지지체에 결합된 샘플”이 청구항 1의 일부 특징인 “세포 또는 조직 샘플”에 해당하는지에 대한 청구범위 해석이 요구되었고, 이는 실질적으로 특허성을 평가하는 데 영향을 미치게 되므로, 본 소송에서 쟁점이 되었습니다. 이에, 재판부는 해당 특징인 “세포 또는 조직 샘플”이, 여전히 세포 또는 조직 자체인 샘플로서 이해되어야 하며, 이를 뒷받침하기 위해 발명의 설명이 참조되어야 한다고 판시하고 있습니다.

요약하자면, UPC 해당 판례는 Art. 69 EPC와 그의 해석에 관한 Protocol에 근거하여, 발명의 설명은 청구범위의 특징이 모호한 경우 뿐만 아니라 청구범위 해석에 항상 고려되어야 한다는 입장입니다.

2 가처분 판결에서 사실 제시 및 입증의 책임 부담

Rule 205 과 그에 따른 소송 절차에 관한 법률에 의해, 가처분 명령은 당사자가 사실과 증거를 제시할 기회가 제한되는 약식 절차(Preliminary Injunction)[5] 를 통해 집행됩니다. 지금까지 PI 절차에 관한 개별국의 법과 관행은 유럽 국가들 간에도 매우 상이했으며, 독일의 실무에서도 통합되지 않은 방식으로 이루어졌습니다[6].

그러나 이번 판결에 의하면, 지연으로 인해 발생할 수 있는 특허권자의 돌이킬 수 없는 피해를 피하기 위해 입증 기준을 너무 높게 설정해서도 안되고, 나중에 가처분 명령이 취소됨으로 인해 피고가 피해를 입지 않도록 하기 위해 너무 낮게 설정해서도 안 된다고 규정하고 있습니다.

UPC의 소송 절차에 관련 법률 Rule 211.2 에 의하면, “신청인이 Art. 47 UPCA 따라 절차를 개시할 자격이 있고, 해당 특허가 유효하며, 자신의 권리가 침해되고 있거나 그러한 침해가 임박했다는 `충분한 수준의 확실성 (sufficient degree of certainty)’ 대해 법원을 만족시킬 수 있을 정도의 합리적인 증거를 제시해야 한다.”고 규정하고 있는데, 이에 더하여 본 판결은 “충분한 수준의 확실성”에 대해, “법원으로서 신청인이 소송을 개시할 자격이 있고 특허가 침해되었다는 것이 적어도 그렇지 않을 가능성보다 더 높다고 판단하는 것을 요구한다”고 판시하면서, “법원이 ‘확률의 평가(balance of probabilities)’에 따라 특허가 유효하지 않을 가능성이 그렇지 않을 가능성보다 높다고 판단하는 경우에는 충분한 수준의 확실성이 결여된 것이다.” 라고 덧붙이고 있습니다 (GROUNDS FOR THE ORDER 5. a) 4번째 단락).

따라서 본 판결문에는 ‘확률의 평가’를 따르고 있습니다. 즉, 특허가 무효일 가능성이 더 높은 경우, 가처분 신청은 기각될 것입니다. 이는 특허가 신규성이 없거나 진보성이 없을 가능성이 더 높은지 여부를 묻는 “간단한 질문”으로 귀결됩니다. 이 경우 UPC는 특허 침해 소송에서 가처분을 인용하지 않을 것입니다.

이 판결은 가처분과 관련된 개별국 법원에서의 상충되는 다양한 결정과는 별개로, UPC가 공통된 기준을 제시했다는데 그 의의가 있습니다.

3 UPC 진보성 관련 이슈

본 판결문에 의하면 청구항 1 이 용이하게 발명할 수 있을 가능성이 높다는 결론에 도달했습니다. 흥미로운 점은 본 판결이 1심 법원의 결론을 뒤집었다는 점입니다.

본 판결에 의하면, 청구항 1의 방법은 세포 또는 조직 샘플에서 복수의 분석물을 검출하기 위한 의도가 있는 반면 인용문헌 6은 이에 대해서 기재하고 있지 않다는 점을, 청구항 1과 인용문헌 6의 유일한 차이점으로 꼽았습니다. 오히려, 인용 문헌 6은 증폭된 DNA 분자 (ASMs)를 검출하기 위한 방법을 기재하고 있을 뿐 이는 세포나 조직 샘플에 대한 것은 아니라고 보았습니다. 즉, 당업자 수준에서 해당 특허로부터 이를 세포와 조직 샘플에 대한 것으로 간주하지 않을 것이라고 본 것입니다. 따라서 신규성은 인정되었습니다.

진보성과 관련해서는, 해당 인용 문헌 6이 복수의 ASM을 검출하는 방법을 기재하고 있기 때문에, 샘플로부터 표적 분자를 검출하기 위한 고처리량 광학 멀티플렉스 방법(high-throughput optical multiplexing methods)을 개발하려는 당업자라면 해당 인용 문헌 6을 고려했을 것이라고 판시하고 있습니다. 당업자로서 이 문헌에서 시작해서 우선일 당시 멀티플렉스 분석 기술에 대한 수요가 있었다는 점을 염두에 둔다면, 보충 문헌(B30)에 기재된 바와 같이 해당 문헌의 방법을 in-situ로 이전하는 것을 고려할 수 있을 것이라고 본 것입니다. 또한, 재판부는 당업자가 테스트를 수행하지 못하는 어려움에 직면하여 성공 가능성이 불충분 할 것이라는 추론에 대응해서 스웨덴 특허청 컨설팅 보고서(B10, 5페이지)를 언급하고 있습니다.

이로써, 해당 재판부는 해당 특허가 진보성이 인정되지 않을 것으로 보이므로 본안 소송에서 무효로 판명될 가능성이 높다고 결론 내리고 가처분 신청에 대한 충분한 근거가 없어 기각하는 것으로 판단하고 있습니다.

시사점:

  • Art. 69 EPC와 그 해석에 관한 Protocol을 근거로 특허 청구범위가 모호할 때 뿐 아니라, 특허 청구 범위의 해석의 보조 수단으로서 발명의 설명과 도면을 항상 사용해야 한다고 판시했습니다.
  • “충분한 수준의 확실성”은 “확률의 평가”에 따라 “적어도 그렇지 않을 가능성보다 더 높은 가능성”을 고려해야 합니다.
  • 청구범위를 용이하게 발명할 수 있다고 간주하기 위해, 발명에서 제기된 문제의 해결 을 위한 “성공에 대한 합리적인 기대/동기부여”를 EPO와 동일한 수준으로 요구하지 않은 것으로 보입니다. UPC가 당업자가 선행 기술을 변형하여 청구항 발명에 도달하는 데 상대적으로 낮은 동기를 요구하는 “독일식” 접근 방식을 취할지는 아직 지켜봐야 합니다[8].

 

[1] 역자 주) Art. 69 EPC: 청구범위 해석에 관한 조항으로 보호범위는 청구범위에 의해 결정되며, 발명의 설명 및 도면이 해석에 사용될 수 있다는 내용을 포함한다.
[2] 역자 주) Art. 84 EPC: 청구범위는보호받고자 하는 사항을 정의한다. 명확하고 간결해야하며 발명의 설명에 의해 뒷받침되어야 한다.
[3] 역자 주) Rule 42 EPC는 발명의 설명의 내용, Rule 43 EPC는 청구범위의 형태와 내용에 대해 규정하고 있다.
[4] 역자 주) Art. 123(3) EPC: 유럽 특허는 부여된 보호범위를 확장하도록 보정될 수 없다.

[5] 일반적으로 예비처분(Preliminary injunction; PI) 절차라고도 합니다
[6] European legal journal인 GRUR 2022, 811 (Phoenix Contact/Harting) 에 실린 내용으로, 그 근거로서 다음과 같은 판례를 제시하고 있습니다.
Munich District Court: Decisions of September 29, 2022, Az. 7 O 4716/22; and October 27, 2022, Az. 7 O 10295/22: European patents and also the German parts of European patents are presumed to be valid from the date of publication of their grant
Düsseldorf District Court: Decision of September 22, 2022, Az. 4 b O 54/22: Questions presumption of validity of European patents and also the German part thereof

[7] 역자 주) EPO의 진보성 판단 방법은 한국과 달리, Problem Solution Approach의 절차를 취합니다. 가장 근접한 인용 문헌과의 차이점을 확정하고, 그에 따른 효과의 구현을 해결해야할 문제로 보고, 해결 방안으로부터 본원 청구항 발명이 용이하게 도출될 수 있는지 여부에 따라 진보성을 판단하는데, 이 때 용이 도출 가능성을 판단할 때 ”성공에 대한 합리적인 기대/동기부여”를 살피게 됩니다.
[8] German Supreme Court, BGH – Fulvestrant (X ZR 59/17; Headnotes)

The detailed article is published at JUVE Patent.

Since the introduction of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) in June 2023, a new system for central attacking the validity of and thereby to nullify a European Patent has been introduced. If a European patent of concern is an EU Unitary Patent, or if a classically validated European patent was not opted out from the competence of the UPC, a central revocation action under the UPC now exists in parallel to an opposition before the European Patent Office (EPO). Therefore, the question arises: what are the pros and cons of challenging the validity either before the EPO or before the UPC? The present report provides some guidance and discusses the main advantages and disadvantages of each system – which eventually is a matter of strategic considerations whether and which advantage may prevail – be it costs, timing, speed of proceedings, and possibly other issues.

Weitere UPC-Updates

UP 협약국이 추가되었습니다! (루마니아)

2024년 5월 31일에 UPC 협정에 승인함으로써, 2024년 9월 1일부터 루마니아가 18번째 협약국으로 UPC에 가입하게 되었습니다. 해당 기사는 여기에서 읽을 수 있습니다
기사로 이동

Comment on UPC Court Decision of May 6, 2024

Before the Paris Local Division, in a case where the defendant had forced an intervener into the proceedings pursuant to Rule 316A RoP (forced intervention), the intervener has obtained a period of one month for filing its Application to Intervene as well as for filing its Statement in Intervention. Contrary to Rule 316.2 RoP, which mentions a “further period” for filing the Statement in Intervention, the Court did not set any such further period.
기사로 이동

UPC 판결에서의 청구범위 해석, 사실 제시 및 입증의 책임 부담 – UPC_CoA_335/2023

UPC의 첫 번째 판결을 계기로, 논란이 많았던 청구항 해석, 사실 제시 및 입증의 책임 부담, 진보성판단에 대한 UPC의 입장을 알아보도록 하겠습니다.
기사로 이동

Comparison of opposition proceedings at the EPO and revocation actions at the UPC – advantages and disadvantages

Since the introduction of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) in June 2023, a new system for central attacking the validity of and thereby to nullify a European Patent has been introduced. If a European patent of concern is an EU Unitary Patent, or if a classically validated European patent was not opted out from the competence of the UPC, a central revocation action under the UPC now exists in parallel to an opposition before the European Patent Office (EPO). Therefore, the question arises: what are the pros and cons of challenging the validity either before the EPO or before the UPC? The present report provides some guidance and discusses the main advantages and disadvantages of each system – which eventually is a matter of strategic considerations whether and which advantage may prevail – be it costs, timing, speed of proceedings, and possibly other issues.
기사로 이동

Dr Dorothea Hofer has obtained the European Patent Litigation Certificate

We are delighted to announce that our managing partner Dr. Dorothea Hofer has obtained the European Patent Litigation Certificate issued by the University of Maastricht in cooperation with the Academy of European Law (ERA) in Trier. This includes an extensive practical and theoretical training in the law underlying the Unified Patent Court (#UPC) and related fields of European law so that she is well prepared for representing clients in all proceedings before the Unified Patent Court.
기사로 이동

The Unified Patent Court will start on June 1, 2023

Years of planning finally become reality: The official starting signal has now been given! Germany ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) on February 17, 2023.
기사로 이동

Start of the Sunrise Period for Filing Opt-out Requests with the Unified Patent Court on March 1, 2023

According to the current schedule, the Unified Patent Court will start its work on June 1, 2023. The so-called sunrise period, during which opt-out requests can be filed with the Unified Patent Court for granted European patents or published European patent applications will start on March 1, 2023, according to the current planning of the Unified Patent Court.
기사로 이동

Adjustment of the timeline –The start of the Sunrise Period is postponed for two months till 1 March 2023.

The start of the Sunrise Period is postponed for two months. The initial roadmap foresaw 1 January 2023 as the beginning of the Sunrise Period with an entry into force of the UPCA on 1 April 2023. Although the general preparatory work of the UPC is on track, the decision was made that additional time may be given to allow future users to prepare themselves for the strong authentication which will be required to access the Case Management System (CMS) and to sign documents.
기사로 이동

All good things are worth waiting for

“All good things are worth waiting for”. Now the time has finally come: The Unified Patent Court has announced on its website that it plans to commence operations on April 1, 2023.
기사로 이동

Roadmap and preparations for the EU Unitary Patent and EU Patent Court System

As previously reported, following ratification in Germany, the way is cleared for the European patent with unitary effect (EU unitary patent) and the Unified Patent Court (UPC). As a result of the deposit of the instrument of ratification by Austria on 18 January 2022, the “provisional application of the EPC/UPC” has now entered into force.
기사로 이동

We are delighted to announce that our managing partner Dr. Dorothea Hofer has obtained the European Patent Litigation Certificate issued by the University of Maastricht in cooperation with the Academy of European Law (ERA) in Trier. This includes an extensive practical and theoretical training in the law underlying the Unified Patent Court (#UPC) and related fields of European law so that she is well prepared for representing clients in all proceedings before the Unified Patent Court.

Weitere UPC-Updates

UP 협약국이 추가되었습니다! (루마니아)

2024년 5월 31일에 UPC 협정에 승인함으로써, 2024년 9월 1일부터 루마니아가 18번째 협약국으로 UPC에 가입하게 되었습니다. 해당 기사는 여기에서 읽을 수 있습니다
기사로 이동

Comment on UPC Court Decision of May 6, 2024

Before the Paris Local Division, in a case where the defendant had forced an intervener into the proceedings pursuant to Rule 316A RoP (forced intervention), the intervener has obtained a period of one month for filing its Application to Intervene as well as for filing its Statement in Intervention. Contrary to Rule 316.2 RoP, which mentions a “further period” for filing the Statement in Intervention, the Court did not set any such further period.
기사로 이동

UPC 판결에서의 청구범위 해석, 사실 제시 및 입증의 책임 부담 – UPC_CoA_335/2023

UPC의 첫 번째 판결을 계기로, 논란이 많았던 청구항 해석, 사실 제시 및 입증의 책임 부담, 진보성판단에 대한 UPC의 입장을 알아보도록 하겠습니다.
기사로 이동

Comparison of opposition proceedings at the EPO and revocation actions at the UPC – advantages and disadvantages

Since the introduction of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) in June 2023, a new system for central attacking the validity of and thereby to nullify a European Patent has been introduced. If a European patent of concern is an EU Unitary Patent, or if a classically validated European patent was not opted out from the competence of the UPC, a central revocation action under the UPC now exists in parallel to an opposition before the European Patent Office (EPO). Therefore, the question arises: what are the pros and cons of challenging the validity either before the EPO or before the UPC? The present report provides some guidance and discusses the main advantages and disadvantages of each system – which eventually is a matter of strategic considerations whether and which advantage may prevail – be it costs, timing, speed of proceedings, and possibly other issues.
기사로 이동

Dr Dorothea Hofer has obtained the European Patent Litigation Certificate

We are delighted to announce that our managing partner Dr. Dorothea Hofer has obtained the European Patent Litigation Certificate issued by the University of Maastricht in cooperation with the Academy of European Law (ERA) in Trier. This includes an extensive practical and theoretical training in the law underlying the Unified Patent Court (#UPC) and related fields of European law so that she is well prepared for representing clients in all proceedings before the Unified Patent Court.
기사로 이동

The Unified Patent Court will start on June 1, 2023

Years of planning finally become reality: The official starting signal has now been given! Germany ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) on February 17, 2023.
기사로 이동

Start of the Sunrise Period for Filing Opt-out Requests with the Unified Patent Court on March 1, 2023

According to the current schedule, the Unified Patent Court will start its work on June 1, 2023. The so-called sunrise period, during which opt-out requests can be filed with the Unified Patent Court for granted European patents or published European patent applications will start on March 1, 2023, according to the current planning of the Unified Patent Court.
기사로 이동

Adjustment of the timeline –The start of the Sunrise Period is postponed for two months till 1 March 2023.

The start of the Sunrise Period is postponed for two months. The initial roadmap foresaw 1 January 2023 as the beginning of the Sunrise Period with an entry into force of the UPCA on 1 April 2023. Although the general preparatory work of the UPC is on track, the decision was made that additional time may be given to allow future users to prepare themselves for the strong authentication which will be required to access the Case Management System (CMS) and to sign documents.
기사로 이동

All good things are worth waiting for

“All good things are worth waiting for”. Now the time has finally come: The Unified Patent Court has announced on its website that it plans to commence operations on April 1, 2023.
기사로 이동

Roadmap and preparations for the EU Unitary Patent and EU Patent Court System

As previously reported, following ratification in Germany, the way is cleared for the European patent with unitary effect (EU unitary patent) and the Unified Patent Court (UPC). As a result of the deposit of the instrument of ratification by Austria on 18 January 2022, the “provisional application of the EPC/UPC” has now entered into force.
기사로 이동

Years of planning finally become reality: The official starting signal has now been given! Germany ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) on February 17, 2023.

This means that the final requirements for the entry into force of the Agreement and thus for the start of the Unified Patent Court on June 1, 2023 have been met. As previously reported, the testing phase for the Unified Patent Court’s file management and communication software is already underway, and from March 1, 2023 the sunrise period for filing any opt-out requests will begin.

For more information, please visit: https://www.bmj.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2023/0217_Einheitliches_Patentgericht.html

According to the current schedule, the Unified Patent Court will start its work on June 1, 2023.

The so-called sunrise period, during which opt-out requests can be filed with the Unified Patent Court for granted European patents or published European patent applications will start on March 1, 2023, according to the current planning of the Unified Patent Court.

An opt-out request is only effective if it is entered in the register of the Unified Patent Court.

At present, it is not yet known how long it will take from filing the opt-out request to registration, as there are no empirical values yet. In a test phase for the file management and communication software of the Unified Patent Court, which will start on February 13, 2023, we will be able to test the process of filing the request, but this does not allow us to draw any firm conclusions on the subsequent processing time of opt-out requests at the Unified Patent Court.

We therefore recommend filing any opt-out requests as early as possible starting from March 1, 2023.

Now is the time to review again your patent portfolio of European patents and published European patent applications and to decide for which patents/patent applications an opt-out request should be filed early.

Do you have any further questions on this topic or on the Unified Patent Court and the Patent with Unitary Effect?

Please do not hesitate to contact us, we will be happy to advise you!

Obtain Information

Dr. Dorothea Hofer
European and German Patent, Trademark and Design Attorney

The start of the Sunrise Period is postponed for two months. The initial roadmap foresaw 1 January 2023 as the beginning of the Sunrise Period with an entry into force of the UPCA on 1 April 2023. Although the general preparatory work of the UPC is on track, the decision was made that additional time may be given to allow future users to prepare themselves for the strong authentication which will be required to access the Case Management System (CMS) and to sign documents.

According to a statement by Klaus Grabinski, judge at the German Federal Court of Justice and the first president of the UPC, preparations for the new court are all on schedule, with judges already appointed, recruitment of court staff underway, and office space selected, so that the court administration should be operational by the beginning of 2023. The postponement was rather justified by the fact that the authentication requirements for the use of the online portal of the UPC presuppose that users will have to obtain suitable tools through appropriate providers, which may well take more time than expected. However, a further delay of the launch is not expected. We will keep you updated.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our team. Jürgen Feldmeier, LL.M. (feldmeier@pruefer.eu)

 

 

“All good things are worth waiting for”. Now the time has finally come:
The Unified Patent Court has announced on its website that it plans to commence operations on April 1, 2023.

This means: Actions for invalidity and for infringement of European patents can then be filed with the Unified Patent Court, unless a request to “opt-out” from the Unified Patent Court system has been filed for the European patent in question.

Such an “opt-outrequest can be filed as early as January 1, 2023, i.e. in the sunrise period before April 1, 2023. The “opt-out” request can be filed for granted European patents as well as for pending European patent applications that have already been published.

In addition, for granted European patents where the mention of grant is published on or after April 1, 2023, a request for unitary effect of the European patent for all participating member states that have joined the unitary patent system can be filed within one month of publication.

The participating states – as of October 2022 – are so far the following 17 states:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden

In the foreseeable future, the following additional member states could join as soon as they have completed the pending ratification: Ireland, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Greece and Cyprus.

For other member states, such as Spain or Croatia, the European patent must still be validated nationally. The same applies, of course, to all non-EU states that belong to the European Patent System (such as Great Britain, Norway, Switzerland, Türkiye, etc.). Instead of the European patent with unitary effect, there will of course also be the possibility in the future for patent protection to extend only to certain desired countries, as in the past, by means of corresponding validation. Depending on whether unitary effect or classical validation is chosen, different translation requirements have to be fulfilled for the granted patent.

For European patent applications for which the intention to grant has already been communicated, i.e. the communication according to R. 71(3) EPC has been issued, the possibility to obtain a European patent with unitary effect can be opened by the following measures:
* An early request for the European patent with unitary effect can be filed. The EPO will deal with the request from April 1, 2023. Or:
* A request is filed in response to the communication under R. 71(3) EPC to defer grant. The EPO then delays the grant so that it is not published until on or after April 1, 2023.
Both measures can be applied as soon as Germany has deposited the certificate of ratification. This date is yet to be announced.

Now is a good time to review the current portfolio of European patents and European patent applications to determine whether an “opt-out” request should be filed for all or some, or whether a European patent with unitary effect is desired for pending applications. This decision will depend on many factors, including the importance of the invention, the technical field, the competitive environment, etc.

Please contact us. We will be happy to advise you on which solution is best for you.

Dr. Dorothea Hofer, Jürgen Feldmeier LLM, Dr. Andreas Oser LLM

As previously reported, following ratification in Germany, the way is cleared for the European patent with unitary effect (EU unitary patent) and the Unified Patent Court (UPC). As a result of the deposit of the instrument of ratification by Austria on 18 January 2022, the “provisional application of the EPC/UPC” has now entered into force. Only the preparatory work for the establishment of the court system will have to be completed in the coming months. The Preparatory Committee estimates that it will take at least 8 months. Once the UPC has become effective, Germany will deposit its instrument of ratification as the last formal act, which will automatically trigger the starting point: at the beginning of the fourth following month, i.e. probably towards the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023, the unitary patent and the UPC will finally become reality, after a long waiting period.

What does this mean for patent applicants and patent proprietors of European patents?
The following are some points to consider now, i.e. even before entering into force:

(1) Choice between the new unitary patent and the classical EP patent
Even if the option can in principle only be exercised after entry into force: by means of suitable procedural measures, this freedom of choice could still be used for EP applications currently pending before the EPO, even if the grant phase is already relatively far advanced.
In a recent communication from the European Patent Office, official measures are announced – without giving details at the moment – to give patent applications that are about to be granted the chance to obtain a unitary patent. The communication on the version of the patent application intended for grant (the so-called “Rule 71(3) Communication”) is considered to be the caesura for the applicability of these announced measures.
If you wish to maintain the option for applications although a Rule 71(3) Communication has already been issued, you may have to take your own procedural steps. That is, in order to gain time in this situation, for instance minor formal amendments to the intended text could be requested at the end of the regular 4-month period, in order to trigger a second 71(3) Communication. Alternatively, or in addition, it is also possible to continue the application after the due date for completion of the (possibly second) Rule 71(3) Communication has deliberately expired: after being notified of a loss of rights, further processing (with an official fee of 265.00 EUR) would then have to be requested.

(2) Choice depending on the type and number of countries desired
After entry into force of the Unitary Patent Act, the applicant must decide, at the latest one month after receipt of the decision to grant by the EPO, whether to proceed with EP validations in individual countries as before or to seek the new EU unitary patent. The new EU unitary patent would allow patent protection over the entire territory of the participating EU countries at one stroke, which currently includes the following 17 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden. More will be added soon, as 8 countries only need to ratify (Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Cyprus). If protection is to be achieved for further, non-participating countries – including non-EU states of the EPC such as Great Britain or Switzerland – additional national validations would have to be carried out there in accordance with the “old” model.

(3) Choice of (non-)applicability of the UPC (opt-in/opt-out)
Three months before the unitary patent and the UPC enter into force, the so-called “sunrise period” begins. From this time onwards, the applicant/patent proprietor can request the non-applicability of the UPC system for one or more or even all of his existing and future classical EP patents by “opting out”. In the opt-out state, individual national courts will then – during a transitional period of 7 years – retain jurisdiction as before in actions on patent infringement and validity in the respective country. Reasons for choosing the opt-out are, for example, not to expose the patent to the risk of a central invalidation through a single nullity procedure; furthermore, in the opt-out state, the development and the practice and case law in the new UPC system could first be observed; if sufficient legal certainty is given, the patent proprietor can then enable UPC applicability again in the future as a result of an opt-in declaration.

(4) Choice of a competent UPC court location for patent infringements
Due to their experience, the German court locations Düsseldorf, Munich, Mannheim and Hamburg will also play an important role in the new UPC system. The court location Germany could be further strengthened by the fact that the central UPC court in Munich is not only responsible for the field of mechanics, as originally stipulated, but may also awarded the technical fields of chemistry, pharmaceuticals and human necessities (incl. health care); this field was originally intended for London, but is now available for disposition as a result of Brexit.
If there is no opt-out, the decisions of the UPC court will be directly effective in all countries where the EP patent exists.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our team. Dr Andreas Oser, LL.M. (office@pruefer.eu)