As we discussed in a prior post, the introduction of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) will be a significant change to the European patent landscape and will have a profound effect on how life sciences companies set about their patent strategies – from filing through exploitation to enforcement.

Consequently, life sciences companies should take note that the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Preparatory Committee announced last week that it is now working on “the assumption that the Provisional Application Phase (PAP) will start end of spring 2017, presumably in May, and that the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court (UPCA) can enter into force and the court become operational in December 2017.” (The timetable does come with the “clear disclaimer that there are a number of factors that will dictate whether it is achievable.”)

What does this mean for patent owners? Some practical points include the following:

  • The UPC Preparatory Committee specifically announced that the start of the sunrise-period for opting out European patents from the UPC system will be in early September 2017. This will provide a minimum of three months for patent owners who wish to opt out their patents to do so before the UPC becomes operational in December 2017.
  • This is the first time even an indicative date has been given to the start of the opt-out sunrise period. Patent owners should therefore prioritize their analysis of their portfolios to identify which patents should be opted out, if any.
  • Patent owners should also be reviewing patent licenses and the extent to which licensees can unilaterally litigate in the UPC without needing the patent owner’s permission, as commencing litigation in the UPC will subject the patent to the UPC’s jurisdiction. Any such licenses will need to be amended.

For more information on the Unified Patent Court, its impact for patent owners, and factors that could affect its timeline to being operational, please read my recent Reed Smith client alert, “Provisional start date announced for the Unified Patent Court.”