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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

UPDATE: Why picking a London UPC court location is more difficult than you think

The AmeriKat's friend, Melodie Ward, 
trying out one of 
Aviation House's possible
UPC court rooms
The AmeriKat's post on the debate surrounding the location of London's UPC locations has already collected a healthy clutch of comments and e-mails (see post here) without generating a clear consensus as between Building 1000 and Aviation House.

This afternoon the IPKat forwarded to the AmeriKat this thought piece from his friends at Carpmaels & Ransford which expressed their view that a central location for the UPC is preferable. They state that:
"In our view, the most fitting site for the London Division of the UPC is a central one. This is where London’s leading legal and IP firms are based, and a central location for the Court will support these firms in attracting work from the global companies that are going to be users of the system. The further away from the centre of London the Court is located, the more this local advantage becomes eroded. This is also where the various expert IP Chambers of UK advocates are located, and these advocates will be the individuals appearing daily before the Court. The logistics of transporting legal bundles to and from the Court will be significant if that Court is remote from their Chambers; that is one reason for their current historic location near the English Courts."
So another vote for central London.  The AmeriKat understands the reasons why central London is a preferable location (she said so herself yesterday), but the real task is in identifying an actual property or properties in Central London given the various constraints.  Some of these constraints IPKat readers will be aware of and some, they may not.

As to the latter, this morning the AmeriKat spoke with Janis Makarewich-Hall who heads up the UPC Taskforce at the UK IPO.  Janis updated the AmeriKat with the following information which will help readers understand the balancing exercise that has to be taken when determining the most appropriate location for the court:
  • To start with, the information contained via EPLAW is a bit out of date in that the UK Government is also looking at the possibility of commercial properties (Building 1000 and Aviation House are Government properties).
  • As the AmeriKat mentioned yesterday, Aviation House has its difficulties.  It requires remodeling and the small, inflexible space  does not lend itself naturally to court rooms.  However, it is located centrally.  
  • The commercial option, although not impossible, comes with its own challenges.  The UK Government is currently rationalizing their estate and any property requirement must first be robustly considered then ruled out as potential options.  Government-owned buildings are generally large and don't require much renovation for a general office move.  It becomes more complicated when looking to create purpose-built court rooms.  However, they are considered as the first option when looking for a location.  Once this is done and a commercial property is then identified, then the government office has to negotiate a 25% reduction in the rent ["No small feat in Central London!" exclaims Merpel].  Once that has been done, the relevant office has to then obtain Cabinet Office approval.   
  • Once Cabinet Office approval is obtained, a lease can be entered into for the commercial property, but the lease cannot be longer than 5 years as a new government property strategy is expected to begin in 2020.  With the timing of the UPC, this could mean that the premises are only used for 4 years on the assumption that the UPC kicks off in 2016.  
  • Building 1000 does not have those constraints and the UK IPO is hopeful that a favorable lease could be agreed on a 10-year basis because it is a Government-held property.  
  • The other option is that in the initial years there are small court rooms located throughout London.  This is not an ideal solution for accessibility and operational reasons, but it would provide information about case-load and court requirements without dedicating to a large court location prior to a change of the UK's government.  
  • The UK IPO is currently in the process of gathering information regarding commercial properties and will present options for approval to Ministers and the Cabinet Office.   
  • The UK IPO is committed to selecting the best option, but with the above constraints the best option is not always the possible option.  
In the  meantime, the UK IPO welcomes further thoughts and factors that should be considered in selecting a court location, in particular what are the most important priorities in terms of facilities and location and the potential trade-offs between the two.  Please contact Jonathan England with your comments at jonathan.england@ipo.gov.uk.  

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Will there be a necessity for transporting massive legal bundles though? Let the train take the strain and site the court in Docklands.

Anonymous said...

Why does the court need a home and a single physical presence? Why not make the court virtual, sharing resources with the existing IP court infrastructure already in the UK?

Indeed, some London-based courts already can/do sit outside London where helpful, and the Regions and Nations also have court infrastructure that could be used. Such a parallel running could at least be considered until we know what the caseload will be, especially since the majority of litigation will likely remain with national courts until the new system is validated and trusted. As and when the new courts start to steal cases from the existing national courts, resources such as courtrooms can be scaled up as needed. There's no sense wasting money on new infrastructure when the user requirement is not clear.

Wouter Pors said...

Although I certainly support the central location, I think the factor of "transporting legal bundles" will not be decisive. The UPC will use an online system. Bundles will no longer be needed, not even in London. If all goes like it should, logistics should be limited to carrying an iPad or a laptop.

Wouter Pors
Bird & Bird

Anonymous said...

"The further away from the centre of London the Court is located, the more this local advantage becomes eroded."

Heaven forfend. How would these central London firms cope without their local advantage?

Anonymous said...

The current location of London law firms, patent attorneys and barristers should not be the primary concern of where the court should be located. The court users (i.e. the clients of such law firms, patent attorneys and barristers) are the ones who will ultimately end up paying for the costs of the court, so it is their interests which should be considered above those of local practitioners.

It may be that such clients may actually want to use non-UK-based patent attorneys or lawyers to represent them at the court. If this is the case, then international transport links, not necessarily transport links to the centre of London, will be more important.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 70's I used to court in Lordship Lane in my Ford Anglia.Ford returned to Lordship Lane to run The Patents Court in the 90's.
Lordship Lane,the people's choice,steeped in IP folklore and full of memories for my Ford Anglia.

Anonymous said...

I note that international transport is a key consideration. Placing it next to City Airport is probably not wise on that basis.

Would it be possible to place the Court within a current court - eg the Rolls Building?

Anonymous said...

Is a Rolls considered better for international transport than an international airport?

Anonymous said...

Well City Airport is a bit of a niche airport. It's not that easy to get to really. If you flew into any other airport I think you would find it a headache to get to - more so that getting into the centre of London.

And I say this as an IP practitioner based OUTSIDE London.

Anonymous said...

has anyone thought about current location of the ECJ or the General Court??? Luxembourg Kirchberg is not an easy location, exzcept for german lawyers who can come by car.Luxembourg airport is a small one nevertheless it seems to work pretty well with more than 1600 cases handled just on IP.so for London take the closest to the airports.

Mark said...

Perhaps the UK Govt could be persuaded to buy and refit the Queen Elizabeth 2 (the ship, not the monarch) as a floating court complex? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2357950/QE2-seas-Ship-set-sail-Dubai-China-conversion-luxury-hotel.html

It could be based mainly on the Thames, moving from Strand steps to Docklands as the parties require, and could move to Cardiff, Edinburgh or Belfast for cases in other parts of the UK. There would be plenty or room for conference facilities and accommodation for parties coming from afar. It could even travel up the Rhine or Seine if necessary!

Anonymous said...

Nor is Munich easy to get to. Just look at the flight times from Stansted. Thankfully, German taxi drivers drive like nutters.

Charlie

Anonymous said...

The QE2 would also address jurisdiction arguments. When the lawyer stands up and tells the judge she/he has no jurisdiction, the judge can simply point out of the window to prove that she/he now has.

The EU could do the same to save money on those silly moves each year. With the size of these new container ships, they will probably only need a dozen or so to accommodate the EU hierarchy.

Richard Vary said...

I have heard several people say that Aviation House could not house a court room because of the pillars. That seems to be the main argument against it (and the picture of Annesley's cat in a bag suggests it too). But the space on the plans between the pillars seems to be 12m by 20m, which is the same size as the court rooms in the Rolls Building where patent cases are presently heard. It's bigger than most rooms at the EPO. If you don't mind some pillars between the public gallery at the back and the main part of the courtroom you could have a court room that is more than 20m x 20m.

Anonymous said...

There are several recently-closed magistrates' courts that could be put to good use...

Anonymous said...

The obvious venue is the Rolls Building, which was specifically intended for international commercial disputes. It also happens to be within purring distance of the Old Nick.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone seriously see the UK government committing a high profile building to an EU institution at the moment? We might not even be in the EU in 2017, bu which time UPC might also not be operational. Wait till the election then we'll see what sort of venue might be sensible. But even then, it has to be central London. Anywhere else is a joke.

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