"Research reveals growing business support for UPC – crown jewel patents opted in; move to Europe for major patent disputes
LONDON – Research published by Allen & Overy today demonstrates surprising support for Europe’s hotly debated Unified Patent Court, with almost three-quarters (74%) of those responsible for overseeing preparations for the new system expecting it to be positive for their company – and only 15% expect it to have negative consequences for them.
While on the big question of whether to opt in or opt out of the new system during its seven-year transition period, the majority of respondents are undecided on the bulk of their portfolio (68% on average), close to half (49%) of those surveyed said they would definitely opt in at least some of their patents, while only 15% say they would definitely opt out some.
Crucially, where businesses have made a decision to opt in, about 24% of their portfolio on average, they are deciding to opt in their most valuable, or crown jewel, patents. This suggests that, where it matters most for business, they will opt in.
As one Dutch head of IP strategy commented: “The economics of a single enforcement action outweighs the risk of Europe-wide invalidation.” [Merpel assumes that this is an inference drawn from the figures above and not a proposition based on probabilities or game theory. It's a grand starting point for a discussion, though]
As this statement and the research suggest, despite the faltering reception the new system has received from companies across the globe, its impact is likely to be significant [this cannot be denied, but the word "significant" has a Delphic quality to it]. The UPC will offer patentees the ability to obtain broader remedies than those currently on offer in the U.S., with a larger customer base impacted and injunctions that are easier, cheaper and quicker to obtain. Costs are estimated to be at least five times lower than in the U.S [it would be good to know more about this statement too: does this estimate refer to defended or undefended actions, or both -- and does it take account of proceedings via the International Trade Commission?].
These advantages alone mean there is likely to be a shift towards Europe’s UPC as a forum of choice to rival the U.S. for major patent disputes. This is further supported by the majority of respondents indicating they will file unitary patents, as opposed to classic European or national patents, under the new system.
Despite its potential impact on business, the report also highlights an alarming lack of engagement among senior management on the UPC. Only 13% of those responsible for preparations for the new regime say their senior management are ‘fully engaged’ on the issue and appreciate the potential implications [could this be why so many of them are so positive towards it, wonders Merpel]. One consequence of which could see businesses lose exclusivity for their products, or worse still, have their business or products locked out of the entire continent. ...
While the decision on what to do with a companies’ most valuable patents seems clear, what to do with a business’s less valuable patents is anything but. The 68%, on average, of their portfolio that business are still undecided on is largely made up of their secondary patents. Lack of clarity on costs is cited as the main barrier to being able to make decisions according to two-thirds (67%) of respondents. Only when this is clarified will businesses be able to undertake a proper cost-benefit analysis on their less valuable patents and whether it is more economically beneficial to opt them in or out. ... ”This Kat, while uncertain as to its methodology, is fascinated by the outcome of this survey since it gives some small indication of how the various patent communities are reacting to the emerging reality of a new order. He hopes that other surveys will be commissioned that will add to it, in order to produce a more rounded impression, and that they will be repeated over time in order to monitor growth or shrinkage in confidence in the new system. Above all, though, he hopes that more background information will accompany them: would a law practice based in, say, Greece or Portugal, or one of the Scandinavian or Baltic states, be able to replicate these percentages in a survey of its own?
UPDATE: in response to the questions raised in this blog post, Rebecca Hooper (Allen & Overy) has helpfully provided some further information, posted in today's Monday Miscellany round-up here.