Alexander Ramsay, chairman of the UPC Preparatory Committee, is optimistic. Two weeks ago, the Austrian parliament approved the Protocol for the Provisional Application of the UPC. Now, says Ramsay, the Europe-wide patent court could begin its preparation as soon as January 2022.
15 December 2021 by Christina Schulze
JUVE Patent: The Austrian parliament has approved the Protocol for the Provisional Application (PAP) of the UPC. Now the ‘sunrise period’ can begin. What are the next steps for the Preparatory Committee?
Alexander Ramsay: Firstly, Austria needs to formally deposit its instruments of ratification at the depository at the Council Secretariat, which I expect around mid-January. That should then complete the required 13 member states and the protocol should come into force.
The parties to the protocol plan to state how they interpret the entry into force clause. However, this is not formally important. The important point is the deposit of the last member state.
When will the UPC officially start?
If everything goes as expected now, then the protocol will enter into force mid-January 2022 – and I find it reasonable to believe that this will be the case.
What practical measures need to be taken?
Once the PAP starts, the UPC will become a legal entity and the governing bodies of the UPC will replace the Preparatory Committee.
The most time-consuming task during the PAP will be the appointment of the judges. The interviews will take place as soon as possible once the PAP starts. The UPC will appoint approximately 90 judges, but obviously a lot more will be interviewed. Once they are appointed, training can begin. The judges will also vote for the president of the court.
Apart from this, many other tasks needs to be completed. For instance, among other things finishing touches on the courts’ IT system are needed to make it compliant with the incoming corporate function systems.
“Selecting judges is the most time-consuming task”
Will the opportunity to apply for the judgeships be reopened?
Judges could apply in 2016 and 2019, so I cannot see us reopening the application process now before the start of the PAP. We have a substantial number of candidates and if the UPC is successful, this will not be the final opportunity for people to apply.
What training and networking opportunities will the UPC create for judges and lawyers?
The training program for the judges and the staff of the Court is quite elaborate. There will be training, from our training centre in Budapest, for instance in the case management system and the rules of procedures.
How will the staff for the three UPC committees be selected?
Delegates of the member states will form the Administrative Committee and the Budget Committee. They will also nominate the members of the Advisory Committee.
So far, other market participants such as in-house counsel, patent attorneys und lawyers have played a major role in UPC preparations. What will be the role of these committees in the next six months?
Ever since the launch of the negotiations, everybody has been very keen to listen to the good advice of judges and practitioners. Several different groups of judges and other experts have provided valuable advice to the project. After the start of the PAP it will be for the Admin Committee to decide how it will divide the work. I think it is a good thing to listen to experts.
How many other members of staff will the UPC have?
Besides the judges, the hosting states will provide the staff of the court. There will be the need for several different competences, registry personnel, clerks and IT specialists. The organisation has a flexible set-up in order to maximise the use of existing resources. We’re currently conducting a survey to find out how the member states plan to staff the divisions.
It remains undecided where the chamber slated for London should move. When and how will the decision be made?
We don’t think that the London question will delay the start of the UPC. The UPC clearly will have no presence in the UK and the reference to London is obsolete. Existing seats of the central division can deal with the cases until the state parties have decided how to progress. Whether there will be a third division and where it should be is for the member states to negotiate.
“Member states will decide on the location of the third division”
Have the premises for the central chamber in Paris been chosen, or will they change again?
That situation is a work in progress. I am confident that the premises provided in Paris will be excellent.
The UPC project has experienced several years of delay. What measures will you undertake, if any, to promote the project to users again?
I think that there is a lot of attention on the project now and it will increase further at the start of the PAP. We then need to be able to meet the users’ demand for knowing more, which we are currently working on.
This interview was conducted by Christina Schulze