The UPC and Patent Trolls, round two:

In an open letter published February 25th 2014 addressed to the Unified Patent Court, a coalition of companies and trade associations including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung, repeated concerns raised last September regarding the rules of procedure of the UPC. See our post in the previous letter here.

This recent letter did not raise new concerns but insisted on the need for rules on judicial guidance, bifurcation and injunctions, in order to prevent patent trolls to abuse the new court. This consortium of companies argues that rules enabling courts to decide invalidity and infringement separately could mean that invalid patents will be held to be infringed. They also believe that judges may be persuaded to grant broad injunctions on valid patents, and fear that the probability of the UPC being flooded by Patent trolls will be increased by legal uncertainty deriving from an absence of appropriate rules on bifurcation and injunctions for judges. However as “Managing IP” suggests “judges may be less keen to bifurcate cases than many companies fear (…) partly because they would be reluctant to see part of the case off to another court in a different country, possibly conducted in another language.” (Managing IP 26/02/2014)

The sixteenth draft of the rules of procedure released on March 06th 2014 however does not bring any change related to bifurcation or injunction thus indicating that the UPC followed the Rules Committee’s position against being prescriptive and does not consider this issue to be a problem.

The Legal Group of the Preparatory Committee, chaired by Germany’s Johannes Karcher, will now consider the draft set of rules at the level of participating EU member states. It plans to hold a hearing later this year on the suggested amendments to the text. The hearing is expected to be in September or October. (Managing IP  07/03/2014)


Now that the final draft of the rules of procedure has been released do you think that they will allow an easy access to the UPC by Patent Trolls? Do you share the Apple, Blackberry or Google’s point of view? Or are you confident that the UPC has taken so far the necessary measures to protect itself against what cost the US economy $500 billion over the last 20 years according to Corporate Counsel?



You can find the latest draft of the Rules of Procedure (18th) here .

UPC and Patent Trolls…

Marc Tarabella, a European MEP (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament) from Belgium asked in November 2013 the European Commission the following written question about Patent Trolls and the UPC:

Are ‘patent trolls’ soon to arrive in Europe en masse? These companies, which are very active in the United States, make money by buying up patents with the sole aim of taking anyone who infringes them to court. ‘Patent trolls’ thus make no commercial use of the patents they own; rather, they use them purely as a way of pressuring other companies into giving them money.

For now, ‘patent trolls’ are largely an American problem. However, the new EU legislation on patents could change that.

1. How is the Commission preparing for this legislation?

2. Does it have concerns that the law will be abused?

Intellectual property cases may be dealt with by two courts: one focuses on the validity of the patent, while the other establishes whether the patent has been infringed or not. As both courts work independently of each other, a product may be preventively taken off the market before the issue of the patent’s validity has been resolved. What is more, this could happen in at least 13 Member States, once the single patent becomes a reality.

3. In view of the major impact such a ban would have, would this not enable plaintiffs to extract considerable sums of money on the basis of poor-quality or even invalid patents?”


Michel Barnier, on behalf of the European Commission responded in January 2014 that:

“The Commission fails to see how the recent Union legislation on patents, namely Regulations 1257/2012 and 1260/2012, could increase the activity of so called ‘patent trolls’ in Europe. To the extent that the Honourable Member’s question pertains to the Unified Patent Court (UPC), it should be noted that the UPC agreement is an instrument under international law and is not part of Union law. The matter is thus outside the Commission’s remit. The Commission will, however, provide the following factual information.

The UPC as a common specialized patent court will increase legal certainty, and a centralized patent revocation procedure will leave less room for ‘patent trolls’ to exploit current fragmentation.

The UPC Agreement provides for safeguards against ‘patent trolls’. No automatic injunctions shall be granted: the UPC has the discretion to weigh the parties’ interests and to take into account the potential harm from the grant/refusal of the injunction. The Rules of Procedure (draft of 25 June 2013) foresee a possibility to require reasonable evidence that the patent is valid and being infringed and to order an adequate security for any injury likely to be caused to the alleged infringer if the injunction is later revoked.

The UPC is a single court competent for both patent infringement and revocation actions. A local/regional division has only a possibility, after having heard the parties, to refer a counterclaim for revocation to the central division. The Rules of Procedure provide that in case of a high probability that the patent will be held invalid in the revocation procedure the court must stay the infringement proceedings. The objective is to ensure that the patent validity is dealt with before the infringement action can proceed.”


This written question comes after the open letter signed by a number of very important groups such as Google, Apple, Cisco, Microsoft or Intel in September 2013 who raised concerns about the danger of Patent Trolls for the UPC, and especially in relation with injunctions. The UPC injunction power will in fact extend beyond a single country to most of Europe, which could lead to a rise of abusive litigation before the UPC. The open letter argued that “a rule that does not offer sufficient guidelines on when to grant injunctions will create strong incentives for abusive behaviors and harm the innovation that the patent system is designed to promote”, it also highlighted the fact that to mitigate the potential for abuses of Patent Assertion Entities, the UPC should be guided by strong rules of procedure assessing proportionality prior to granting injunctions.


The 15th draft of the rules of procedure so far deal with injunctions in rule 211 which sets out the criteria for the granting of preliminary injunctions. It states that “(1) The Court may in particular order the following provisional measures: (a) injunctions against a defendant (…) (2) In taking its decision the Court may require the applicants to provide reasonable evidence to satisfy the Court that (…) the patent is valid and his right are being infringed. (3) (…) the Court shall have discretion to weigh up the interests of the parties”. What causes concerns is of course the word “may” which indicates that it would be at the discretion of the UPC and its judges to apply the proportionality safety nets set out in rule 211. The definitive draft of the rules of procedure has not been yet released but it can only be hoped that safeguards against patent trolls will be secured.


The UPC Blog awaits your comments and thoughts on this issue:

Do you think that the UPC might be targeted by Patent Trolls?

Do you think that the draft rules of the UPC are too weak to prevent abusive litigation?

Or on the contrary, do you think as Michel Barnier, that the existing safeguards are enough?

Do you think that the answer to that problem might ultimately lie in the hands of the newly trained UPC judges?






UPC Procedure:


!! The Rules of Procedure for the Unitary Patent Court are yet to be finalized and adopted by the UPC Preparatory Committee  !!


I. Start of proceedings (written procedure):

(A) Initial pleading and what needs to be submitted to the UPC:

Depending on the type of action to be started, the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC lays down what the corresponding Statement or Application shall contain:

  • a Statement of claim shall contain the items listed in Rule 13;


  • a Statement for revocation shall contain the items listed in Rule 45;


  • a Statement for a declaration of non-infringement shall contain the items listed in Rule 60;


  • an Application for appropriate compensation under Article 8.1 of Regulation 1257/2012 shall contain the items listed in Rule 80;


  • an Application to annul or alter a decision of the European Patent Office shall contain the items listed in Rule 88;


  • an Application for obtaining provisional and protective measures and injunctions shall contain the items listed in Rules 192 and 206.



(B) Starting proceedings before the UPC:

Depending on the type of action which is to be started, the plaintiff shall lodge either:

  • a Statement of claim (infringement action)


  • a Statement for revocation (revocation action)


  • a Statement for a declaration of non-infringement




Similarly, an action for obtaining provisional and protective measures and injunctions will start when a plaintiff lodges an Application under Rules 192 and 206 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC.


(C) Registration of the plaintiff’s proceedings:

A plaintiff shall lodge the Statement or Application at a sub-registry of the UPC’s Registry. A sub-registry will be set up at all local or regional divisions as well as at the central division’s seat and sections (Article 10.3 of the UPC Agreement). The plaintiff may in many instances choose between several divisions, in accordance with the competence of the divisions under Article 33 of the UPC Agreement.

It is currently planned that an electronic filing system will be set up so that a plaintiff will be able to lodge the statement or Application electronically at the UPC’s Registry (Rule 4 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC).

A Statement of appeal against a decision of the UPC’s Court of First Instance – or an Application for leave to appeal against an order of the Court of First Instance – shall be lodged at the UPC’s Registry in Luxembourg. Electronic filing procedures are also planned for the appeal stage.




II. Interim Measures procedure:

(A) End of the Written procedure:

The aim of the Interim procedure is to make all necessary preparations for the oral hearing (Rule 101 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC). The judge-rapporteur shall be responsible for the Interim Procedure and may in particular – where necessary, and subject to the mandate of the panel – hold one or more Interim conferences with the parties. In addition, the judge-rapporteur shall explore with the parties the possibility for a settlement, including through mediation, and/or arbitration, by using the facilities of the Patent mediation and arbitration centre (Article 52.2 of the UPC Agreement).

Further provisions in the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC lay down that the judge-rapporteur may order parties to provide further clarification on specific points, answer specific questions, produce evidence or lodge specific documents including each party’s summary of the orders sought at the Interim conference (Rule 103 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC).


(B) Cross examination of witnesses in Interim procedure:

Only preparatory discussions with witnesses and experts may take place during the Interim procedure (Rule 104(f) of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC). These preparatory discussions shall take place in the presence of the parties with a view to properly preparing for the oral hearing.


(C) UPC compliance penalty:

The UPC has a general power to impose a penalty on a party which does not comply with an order of the UPC (Article 82.4 UPC Agreement; Rule 354.5 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC). The penalty shall be proportionate to the importance of the order to be enforced.

In the Interim procedure, the judge-rapporteur may order the parties to provide additional information (Rule 103 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC). During an Interim hearing, the judge-rapporteur may issue orders regarding the production of further pleadings and documents, experts, experiments, inspections or further written evidence (Rule 105(e) of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC).



III. Oral procedure :

(A) Witness cross-examination :

Witnesses will only be heard during the oral procedure if ordered during the Interim procedure (Rule 112.2(b) of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC). If ordered, witnesses and experts may be heard – always under the control of the presiding judge – either during a separate hearing before the panel or during the oral hearing (Rules 104(h) and 112.3 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC). Where a witness or expert is heard during the oral hearing, the presiding judge and the judges of the panel may put questions to the witness or expert. The parties may also – under the control of the presiding judge – put questions to the witness or expert (Rule 112.3 and .4 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC).


(B) UPC’s decision:

Only in exceptional cases may the UPC give its decision immediately after the closure of the oral hearing. In such cases the written reasoning will be provided on a subsequent date.

Normally, the UPC’s decisions on the merits will be given after the closure of the oral hearing, as soon as possible. The stated objective is that decisions are issued in writing within six weeks of the oral hearing (Rule 118.7 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC).


IV. Evidence:

Any means of evidence may be relied on in the UPC proceedings. In addition, evidence may be obtained by hearing witnesses and party or court experts. The court may order a party to the proceedings to produce evidence. Such an order may be requested by a party which submits reasonable and plausible evidence to support its claims and specifies the evidence which is in the control of the other party. If a party fails to comply with an order to produce evidence this will be taken into account in the court’s decision.

The UPC may issue orders to preserve evidence, such as the inspection of physical objects or premises and the taking of samples. It may also order the seizure of allegedly infringing goods and the materials for producing such goods. Freezing orders are possible under certain circumstances, and may be issued without hearing the defendant.