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Monday, 7 March 2016

View from the UKIPO's UPC Taskfroce: Lassie, Snowy and Mr Pugs go to the UPC

It is very easy in the battle for/against the Unified Patent Court to forget about the names and faces that sit behind closed doors in various European locations battling for certain provisions of Rules of Procedure to be amended, opt-out fees to be removed and Central Division locations to be confirmed.  One such name is Neil Feinson, International Policy Director at the UK's Intellectual Property Office, who has been up to bat on behalf of the UK's business interests in the UPC on more occasions than many can remember.  It is with great pleasure that she hands over this post to Neil who provides some insight in the latest round of negotiations through the guise of....and this pains the AmeriKat to say this...some famous literary dogs:

Mr Pugs displaying the 1000-yard
stare of UPC veteran
"The UKIPO's UPC Taskforce is perhaps more dog than cat (our mascot is after all an opinionated pug tweeting sporadically on Canadian ice hockey, IP law and other key doggie concerns). Nonetheless and despite his own evident lack of Kat-ness, this canine earnestly hopes that his reflections on bringing the UPC into being might be received favourably.
Why now? Well, last month marked a significant milestone in the work to turn the UPC Agreement into a functioning court as the Preparatory Committee took some of the last of the key framework decisions to shape the Court. Of course, there’s still a lot to do, but the checklist is now more about organisational practicalities than major policy calls.

Three or four years ago though things were not looking pretty. Fear of a Frankenstein Court, headquartered in Paris and run by Germans stalked the land. Warnings of bifurcating foreign judges and rogue divisions operating in rare and obscure European languages sent shivers of fear down the spines of in-house counsel. Existing European patents would be held to ransom with an exorbitant charge to escape the Frankenstein Court's jurisdiction while the London Division was going to be cast out to one of London’s less fashionable outer boroughs – accessible only by light railway…

So what has happened since then to set IP hounds’ tails a-wagging? The boring answer is, of course, lots of hard work, meetings, negotiations and user consultation.

But I prefer to think of it as Lassie to the Rescue.
What’s that you say Lassie?
The UK Patent Attorney profession is in danger?
In an earlier episode our brave collie had a paw in wresting a share of the Central Division for London, focused on the life sciences, a UK strength. More recently, the spirit of Lassie was clearly present in the dogged efforts of Kevin Mooney who led the work to prepare the court’s Rules of Procedure, and succeeded in pretty much closing the so-called “injunction gap” (whereby Europe-wide injunctions could have been issued on potentially invalid patents); while the collie himself raced to head off draft EPLC rules that would have excluded the majority of UK patent attorneys from appearing before the court; the cherry on the cake was the procurement of a spanking new kennel for the London Division centrally located close to the hipster friendly shops and cafes of Spitalfields and with access to four tube lines, a mainline station and the future Crossrail.
Meanwhile, as reported by AmeriKat, at last week's Preparatory Committee in Brussels, Lassie's good pal Snowy set to work in his hometown securing the final schedules of court fees and recoverable costs, including notably a fee-less opt out for existing European patents, support for SMEs, and guidelines on the valuation of cases. Agreement was reached on the extent of privileges and immunities for the Court, its judges and staff, in the form of a protocol to be signed imminently by participating states, while judicial salary levels were also set at (€11,000 net per calendar month at first instance, €12,000 for Court of Appeal), although the full T’s&C’s still need working on. A golden bone to the wire fox terrier, I think.
After all of the countless UPC meetings, Snowy
is finally given a bone in the form of no
opt-out fees  (From Flickr)
For the most part, these decisions were welcome and in this hound’s humble opinion, broadly reflected the interests of users. The court fees and recoverable costs package was however a bone of contention, the outcome representing a hard fought compromise between very different visions of the court and what its priorities should be – a classic case of an outcome disappointing all sides equally!
So while there is a long road still to go (and we’ve never been afraid of a good long walk), Mr Pugs and his handlers want to pause and offer the paw of thanks to all of the IPKats and curs who gave so freely of their time, expertise and energy - responding to consultations, attending workshops, briefing the IPO, and speaking up in Europe – to make sure the UPC is as good as it can be, undeniably Best in Show." 

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