Ireland and the Unified Patent Court.

Although the Republic of Ireland signed the Unified Patent Court (UPC) agreement in 2013, the required referendum to alter the Irish constitution and ratify the UPC has yet to take place. The Irish government announced in June 2022 that a referendum is expected to take place in 2023 or 2024.


How would Ireland participate in the UPC, specifically? 

As outlined in our article on the structure of the UPC, the Court of First Instance comprises local and central divisions, with local divisions deciding on infringement matters in the respective member states. The Irish government announced in 2014 their intention to host a local division in Ireland, should the country ratify the UPC following the aforementioned referendum-in-waiting. An Irish local division would provide a useful means of access to the UP system for patentees hailing from the United States, the United Kingdom (UK) and other English-speaking jurisdictions.

The as-yet-undecided Life Sciences seat for the Central Division is also a possibility for Ireland, though the Irish government has not yet submitted a bid for this seat. The main seat for the Central Division is in Paris, with an additional seat in Munich dealing with mechanical engineering patents in particular. The Central Divisions will be responsible for patent revocation claims under the UP system.


Why is Ireland's participation significant? 

Since the UK withdrew from the UPC agreement and will not fall under the Unified Court’s jurisdiction, Ireland is expected to be the only English-speaking and only common law jurisdiction under the UPC. Patentees from the United States and the UK seeking to gauge the predictability of UPC judges ought therefore to pay close attention to Ireland’s potential influence over the development of UPC case law in-line with the common law tradition. Moreover, since the Court of Appeal is to hear cases in the language of the Court of First Instance, the use of an Irish local division could make proceedings more accessible for English-speaking patentees.

Whilst no movement is on the immediate horizon, Ireland’s expected future role in the UPC system will be significant for English-speaking patentees and those from common law jurisdictions. FRKelly is well positioned for Ireland’s introduction to the UP system with offices in both Dublin and Cork, and qualified UPC litigators at the ready. The reader is encouraged to watch this space for further updates on Ireland’s involvement in the UPC.


This article continues FRKelly's series on the upcoming Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court. For more details, check out the following articles:  


1. What is a Unitary Patent?

2. What is the Unified Patent Court?  

3. How to Apply for a Unitary Patent

4. UPC Structure

5. Register for Unitary Patent Protection

6. UPC Operations

7. What Rights Are Afforded by a Unitary Patent? 

8. UPC Opt-Out

9. Opposition, Appeals and Validity of Unitary Patents

10. Will the Unified Patent Court Affect SPCs?

11. Unitary Patent Costs

12. UPC Infringement Actions


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