A Code of Conduct for the representatives before the UPC: The recommendations of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe

Last week, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) published its comments  on the Code of Conduct for the representatives before the UPC, drafted by the EPLAW, EPLIT and epi .

The CCBE  thereby responds to the Preparatory Committee’s declaration, after its last meeting on 14th April 2016, that the Code of Conduct would be agreed at the end of May, for it to be ready for the UPC’s entry into force in February 2017.

Rule 290 and 291 of the UPC Draft Rules of Procedure in fact respectively provide that representatives before the UPC must comply with the Code of Conduct and if in breach may be excluded from the proceedings by the Court.

The UPC draft Code of Conduct has not however been made public yet, and the CCBE has not had access to it. The CCBE’s general comments therefore provide a helpful insight into the core principles that should govern the UPC Code of Conduct, and, raise important questions about issues such as independence, impartiality and interpretation.

The CCBE focuses on seven points:

  • “A minimum standard”: The CCBE, fearing that it would be difficult to design “a single Code of Conduct for all representatives covering all matters”,  invites the Preparatory Committee to clearly identify the basic legal principles applying to all representatives irrespective of their nationality or position (lawyer, patent attorney, solicitor, etc) to ensure a minimum standard for all appearing before the Court.
  • “Enforcement of the code”: The CCBE recommends that complaints from the Court about the representatives’ behaviour be “adjudicated  by a relevant body rather than the judges themselves or the Court”.  The CCBE in fact highlight, that the UPC judges may not have been trained to handle complaints, and, that an independent body would be a guarantee for impartiality .
  • “Complaints procedure”: The CCBE warns that “(n)either the Rules of Procedure nor the Code appears to explain how a complaint of a breach of the Code is to be made, whether anyone is free to make such a complaint, to whom they should complain, nor whether there is any time limit”.
  • “Possible conflicting obligations”: The CCBE has identified areas where the UPC Code of Conduct and national codes of conduct may conflict, resulting in impossible ethical dilemmas for representatives who would not be able to comply with both codes. The CCBE therefore calls for a careful review of compatibility of all codes of conduct.
  • “Appeals”: Neither the Rules of Procedure nor the Draft Code of Conduct explain the appeal procedure allowing the representatives to challenge a sanction. The CCBE alerts the Preparatory Committee of this oversight and advises against designating the UPC Court of Appeal as the appropriate appeal mechanism, which might lack the required independence.
  • “Sanctions”: The Rules of Procedure appear to indicate that there is only one sanction available to the UPC judges under Rule 291, namely exclusion from the proceedings. The CCBE however points up that “Regulators and Ethics Committees enforcing Codes of Conduct normally have available to them a wide range of sanctions so that they can deal proportionately with each complaint”. In fact, as explained by the CCBE, the consequences of an exclusion  can be very severe and significantly affect both parties.
  • “Interpretation of the code”: The CCBE advises the Preparatory Committee to clarify whether the  Code is to be interpreted strictly or liberally, i.e. whether the code of Conduct contains general principles or “detailed and unambiguous regulations”.

The CCBE concludes it letter by regretting not to have more time and more opportunities to contribute to the UPC Code of Conduct, a view shared by the UPC Blog. In fact, a consultation of the future UPC representatives on the Code of Conduct that will regulate their behaviour before the Court would certainly have been very fruitful.

The CCBE’s letter of comments can be found below. 

[embeddoc url=”http://www.ccbe.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/NTCdocument/CCBE_President_lette1_1462522685.pdf”]

So what are the key dates for the UPC for 2014-2015

So what are the key dates for the UPC for 2014-2015?

 Here is a presentation with all the key dates for the UPC for 2014-2015:

[embeddoc url=”http://upcblog.amar.lawwp-content/uploads/2015/01/Key-dates-for-UPC.pdf”]


If you would like to share an update  or add a new key dates please contact us by email upcblog@lavoix.eu or by Twitter @UPCBlogLAVOIX !!






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The Select Committee…an update on its work programme

Who is the Select Committee and what is its function?

The Select Committee is established under the European Patent Convention. It consists of all the EU Member States participating in the enhanced cooperation. The European Commission, Business Europe, the European Patent Institute and other EPC Member States that are not participating in the enhanced cooperation have received the status of observers.

The Select Committee has -among other things- been given the task to govern and supervise the activities of the EPO relating to the UPC. An important task during the preparatory phase will be to fix the level of the renewal fees for European patents with unitary effect.

Since its first meeting on 20th March 2013, the Select committee has been regularly meeting and publishing communiqués. It appears from its “updated timeline” published by Bristowsupc that after focusing on institutional matters such as its creation, composition and adoption of its rules of procedure, the Select Committee is now looking at substantive aspects and notably legal, financial and budgetary issues.

What are the legal issues that it must address?

After reviewing in June, September and December 2013 the first Draft Rules for the Unitary Patent Protection, it is now reviewing the second Draft. These Draft Rules relate mainly to the procedures that will be administrated by the EPO in carrying out the tasks that the Participating Member States will entrust to the EPO in accordance with article 9.1 of the EU Regulation N° 1257/2012.

In June 2014: The Committee adopted in principle the Draft Rules relating to Unitary Patent Protection, with the exception of some technical aspects that require further discussion.

What are the financial and budgetary issues that it must address?

The financial and budgetary aspects of the implementation of the unitary patent protection concern mainly the level and the distribution of the renewal fees, the budgetary aspects of the tasks entrusted to the EPO in accordance with Article 9.1 of the EU Regulation N° 1257/2012 and the implementation of the compensation scheme for the reimbursement of translation costs referred to in Article 5 of EU Regulation N° 1260/2012.

In October 2013 a first meeting of the Select Committee was held to start discussions on the financial and budgetary aspects of the implementation of the unitary patent protection. During this meeting statistical and financial information were  presented to the Select Committee.

In March 2014:The Committee adopted the rules relating to the compensation scheme for costs for translations of applications filed in an EU official language which is not one of the official languages of the EPO, the reimbursement of which is available to patent holders obtaining a European patent with unitary effect. However, the financial aspects of the compensation scheme, including the amount to be compensated, will be discussed at a later stage.” (7th meeting of the Select Committee of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (Munich, 26 March 2014))

In June 2014: If the Committee adopted the draft rules relating to the Unitary Patent Protection, however it did not agree on the level of renewal fees which will have to be fixed by the participating Member States in the Select Committee in October 2014.


The “Enhanced European Patent” or some long-waited-for answers on the Unified Patent Court and the Unitary Patent by the Select and Preparatory Committees.

The Unified Patent Court Preparatory Committee and Select Committee recently released an explanatory note on the “Enhanced European Patent System” detailing the purpose of the future Unified Patent Court and Unitary Patent and the key points on how this major patent reform will articulate itself with the existing European and National patents and existing jurisdictions.


The UPC Blog has extensively posted on the Unified Patent Court competence and procedure, on the nature of the unitary effect and the general overview and background of both the UPC (Unified Patent Court) and the UP (Unitary Patent). It is however the first time that the committees (see our posts on the Select committee and the Preparatory Committee) involved in the setting up of the UPC release an explanatory note.  It is thus the first time that clarifications rather than interpretations are made about the UPC agreement. This post will focus on three key points of the UPC explanatory note, which bring some explanations to the cacophony of information published so far, without nonetheless answering all the questions.


Before looking at these three substantial points, it is important to start with the reassertion from the Select and Preparatory Committees that the Unitary Patent directly derives entirely from the European patent, which provides the shell onto which the unitary effect hooks up. So to obtain a Unitary patent an applicant must first apply for a European patent at the European Patent Organisation, which will handle the application in accordance with the European Convention. It is only after grant that the proprietor of a European patent will have the opportunity to apply for unitary effect.  However if for a European patent it is necessary for the patent holder to validate the patent in each Member state where protection is required, for a unitary patent a single request will give protection in 25 Member States of the European union. (More information on the unitary effect here)


The rest of the explanatory note is divided between the UPC and UP, and deals with important questions such as the geographical extension, the general competence of the UPC and the transitional period. The UPC Blog by Lavoix raised in previous posts the problems of legal uncertainty attached to these three topics, we will thus look here at the response of the Select and preparatory Committees. (See Discussion posts on “Opt-out and legal certainty” “The impact of Article 83 UPCA on the applicable law” and “UPC and Infringement actions”)


The Geographical extension of the Unitary Patent:

The unitary effect of a European patent will cover the territories of the contracting member states that have ratified the UPC Agreement at the date of the registration of the unitary effect of the individual patent. The explanatory note however makes clear that the geographical perimeter of validity of the unitary effect will not extend following the progressive ratification of the UPC Agreement after the registration. Rather, it will stay the same until all the contracting member states ratify the UPC Agreement. It is only then that European patents registered thereafter will enjoy unitary effect in all participating member states. As for Spain, Italy and Croatia which are not participating in the UP and Poland which is participating but has not signed yet the UPC Agreement, it will be possible for the proprietor of a European patent with unitary effect to choose to validate the patent as a classical European patent.  In addition, it will also be possible to validate the same patent as a European Patent in the ten contracting states of the European Patent Organisation that are not EU Member States. (For more information on the contracting member states and Italy and Spain’s positions).


The UPC general competence:

On the general competence of the UPC, the explanatory note makes clear that the UPC has exclusive competence “in respect of civil litigation on matters relating to classical European patents, European patents with unitary effect, supplementary protection certificates issued for a product covered by such a patent and European patent applications”. The UPC will not however have any competence for national patents or supplementary protection certificates granted for a national patent (see our post on supplementary protection patents).

The UPC’s rulings will have effect in the territory of the contracting member states that will have ratified the UPC Agreement.  The exclusive competence of the UPC will also apply to the decisions of the European Patent Office in “carrying out the tasks of administering the Unitary patent set out in the Unitary patent regulations”.


The Transitional period: (For background information on the transitional period see here) 

The UPC Agreement provides for European patents a period of seven years, renewable for another seven years, during which they will co-exist with UP’s. However, as it is made clear in the explanatory note, the transitional rules will not apply for European Patents with unitary effect.  The transitional period will only apply to European patents or Supplementary Protection Certificates issued for products protected by European patents. For those European patents, the competent forum during the transitional period will be either the UPC or the existing national courts. So unless an action has already been brought before the UPC, actions for infringement or for revocation concerning European patents or for a Supplementary Protection Certificate issued for a product protected by a European patent may thus still be brought before national courts.


The Opt-out is, too, detailed and explained. Hence, “during the transitional period, a proprietor –or an applicant for- a European patent granted or applied for prior to the end of the transitional period or a SPC issued for a product protected by such a patent will also have the possibility to opt out the patent/application/SPC, from the jurisdiction of the UPC unless an action has already been brought before the UPC. To this end they shall notify their opt-out to the Registry. The opt-out shall take effect upon its entry into register. It will be possible to withdraw such an opt-out at any time. There will be no possibility to opt-out European patents with unitary effect.”  In respect of the opt-out the Select and Preparatory Committees list three benefits of the UPC justifying not opting-out: “a unified jurisprudence resulting in increased predictability and the avoidance of panel litigation; judgments (injunctions, damages) with effect in 25 Member states of the EU; the expectation of speedier procedures than in many of the individual Member States”.


It is important to observe however that this explanatory note does not answer central questions such as the possible dual competence between the UPC and national jurisdiction under articles 32 (1) and 83 (1) of the UPC Agreement, the types of actions that would stop a patent proprietor to opt-out or the risk of lis pendens. The UPC Blog will deal with each of these issues in posts to come.


You can of course look at the UPCA here and the draft rules of procedures here.


The Preparatory Committee

 Who is the Preparatory Committee and what is its function?

The Preparatory Committee is composed of all the Signatory States to the Unified Patent Court Agreement document 16351/12, of 11.01.2013. Poland, the European Commission and the EPO have observer status. Its objective is to prepare for the establishment of the UPC in order for it to be operational once the UPC Agreement enters into force. The Preparatory Committee will exist until the Court is established. Currently this is expected to last two years and during this time it has its own rules by which it is governed. You can find the rules here. Its work programme is set out in a Roadmap.

The Preparatory Committee has identified five major work streams; Legal Framework, Financial Aspects, Human Resources/Training, IT and Facilities. Each work stream has been assigned to a specific working group which have been given the task of preparing proposals to the Committee where all decisions are taken.

The Preparatory Committee is chaired by Mr Alexander Ramsay -from Sweden who is assisted by the vice-Chairman, Louise Akerblom -from Luxembourg- and the Head of Secretariat Eileen Tottie -from the United Kingdom.



The Unified Patent Court – Overview and Background.

(A) The current situation:

Currently, national courts and authorities of the contracting states of the European Patent Convention are competent to decide on the infringement and validity of European patents.

In practice, this gives rise to a number of difficulties when a patent proprietor wishes to enforce a European patent – or when a third-party seeks the revocation of a European patent – in several countries: high costs, risk of diverging decisions and lack of legal certainty. Forum shopping is also inevitable as parties seek to take advantage of differences in national courts’ interpretation of harmonized European patent law and in procedural laws, as well as differences in speed (between “slow” and “quick” courts) and in the level of damages awarded.

The Unified Patent Court Agreement addresses the above problems by creating a specialized patent court, the “Unified Patent Court”, or UPC, with exclusive jurisdiction for litigation relating to European patents and European patents with unitary effect (unitary patents).


(B) The UPC Structure:

The UPC will comprise a Court of First Instance, a Court of Appeal and a Registry. The Court of First Instance will be composed of a central division (with seat in Paris and two sections in London and Munich) and by several local and regional divisions in the Contracting Member States to the Agreement. The Court of Appeal will be located in Luxembourg.


(C) Panel Composition:

The UPC panels will have both legally and technically qualified judges from all over Europe.

Panels in the local/regional divisions will be made up of three legally qualified judges. In addition it will be possible to appoint a technically qualified judge from a pool of judges, either on request of one of the parties or on the panel’s own initiative. For local divisions, two of the three legally qualified judges must be nationals of the contracting state in which the division is set up if this state has 50 or more patent cases per year. Otherwise, only one judge from this state will be required. For regional divisions the same rule applies with the condition that two judges come from the region.

Panels in the central division will be made up of two legally qualified judges who are nationals of different contracting member states and one technically qualified judge with qualifications and experience in the relevant technological field.  When hearing actions concerning certain EPO decisions, the panel will be composed of three legally qualified judges.

Panels in the court of appeal will be made up of three legally qualified judges who are nationals of different contracting member states and two technically qualified judges with qualifications and experience in the relevant technological field.


(D) Entry into force

The UPC will come into existence and start its operations immediately after the UPC Agreement enters into force.

As explained by the UPC Preparatory commitment, “the Agreement will enter into force on the first day of the fourth month after the fulfillment of the following two requirements (whichever is the latest):

1. The deposit of the thirteenth instrument of ratification, including Germany, the United Kingdom and France (the three Contracting Member States in which the highest number of European patents had effect in 2012).

2. The date of entry into force of the amendments to Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 (Brussels I Regulation) concerning its relationship with the Agreement.[4]” The European Commission is expected to present a proposal during 2013. The necessary amendments can then be adopted and enter into force before the target date of the entering into force of the UPC in early 2015.

The Preparatory Committee is officially working towards early 2015 as a target date for the UPC to be set up.


(E) Implementation

The signatory states of the UPC Agreement are working together to ensure that the UPC is fully operational by the time the Agreement comes into force. To this end the Preparatory Committee oversees work in five main areas:

  • Legal framework of the UPC,
  • Financial aspects of the court,
  • IT,
  • Facilities,
  • HR & Judicial Training.

Each area has been assigned to a working group with the responsibility to develop proposals. The details and the target dates are established in the roadmap of the Preparatory Committee which is published on the official website of the Committee and can be found here.


(F) Enforcement of UPC decisions

Any ruling by the court on a patent will be simultaneously valid in all countries in which that patent has been validated and will be enforced under procedures governed by the law of the country(ies) where enforcement takes place.


 (G) Fees

The fee system for the court is yet to be finalized, but will be agreed upon by the participating Member States according to Article 36 (3) of the Agreement. In setting the fees Member States will need to balance the need to ensure the Court is accessible for users, especially SME’s, with the requirement in the Agreement that the system will eventually self financing.