Irish government confirms deferral of referendum on Unified Patent Court

Feedback suggests people are “unfamiliar” with the new patents court and that more time was needed for public discourse around benefits of the UPC
Dublin, Ireland – December 26, 2016:The seat of the Irish government also known as Leinster House. Both the lower (Dail) and higher (Seanad) chamber meet here.

Leinster House, is the seat of the Oireachtas, the parliament of Ireland Shutterstock;

The Irish government has announced today (16 April) that it will defer the date for a referendum on the ratification of the agreement of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) that was scheduled to take place on 7 June alongside local and European elections.

The Irish minister for enterprise, Peter Burke, said in a statement that while the government continued to believe that joining the UPC was “essential and that the referendum should be pursued”, more time was needed for public discourse and engagement on the matter to help inform the debate.

He continued that the June elections will give rise to diverse issues and campaigns involving local and European candidates which “may crowd out a debate on the patent court”.

Feedback suggests that many people are “unfamiliar” with the patents court and there is “not a significant level of awareness” among the electorate ahead of the proposed referendum, he noted.

He added that: “We need to have a broader discussion around the importance of Unitary Patents, the jurisdictional matters relating to the court, and the economic benefits that joining the UPC would bring.”

After a lengthy process, spanning decades, the UPC threw open its doors last June, but so far only 17 EU member states have ratified the UPC agreement, with Ireland next in line to ratify its participation in the court. Ireland agreed to opt into the UPC  in 2013.

The UPC project and its corresponding patent with unitary effect, the unitary patent (UP), has weathered many storms including rows over official languages and Brexit, which saw the UK leaving the burgeoning system.

It provides a uniform, centralised platform for Europe-wide patent litigation and hears both infringement and revocation actions deciding on the validity of UPs and the ‘classic’ European patents.

Uptake has been enthusiastic: as of 2 April, the court had received 311 cases. Of these cases, 110 were infringement actions and 142 were counterclaims for revocation filed with the court’s local and regional divisions. The court does point out though that the counterclaims come from 43 individual infringement actions.

The local divisions in Germany have claimed the lion’s share so far of the infringement actions, with 43 in Munich’s local division, followed by Dusseldorf with 24 and 14 in Mannheim.

The UPC referendum in Ireland was scheduled to take place against a backdrop of two recent referenda in March where the Irish electorate voted “no” to widening the definition of “family” in its constitution and replacing a reference to a “mother’s duties in the home” with a clause recognising care provided by family members. Despite all the major Irish political parties campaigning for a “yes” vote, both changes were definitively rejected by Irish voters.

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]