Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Referendum on Unified Patent Court in Ireland

According to the EUobserver, junior minister Sean Sherlock has confirmed that Ireland will have to hold a referendum before ratifying the agreement on a Unified Patent Court. TheJournal notes that Ireland's Supreme Court requires a referendum for any transfer of judicial powers to an international body.

The Unified Patent Court will entail such a transfer. Apart from unitary patents, the unified patent court will also be competent for 'regular' European Patents, i.e., without unitary effect. Once a European Patent has been granted it has the same effect as a national patent in the contracting states, including Ireland.

Currently, the courts of Ireland have exclusive jurisdiction in proceedings concerned with the validity of any European patent granted for Ireland (article 22(4) Brussels I). So revocation of the Irish part of a European Patent now needs to be done by an Irish court. But, when the unified court takes effect, the revocation of a European patent, including the Irish part, may be done by the Unified Patent Court.

TheJournal further notes that the referendum is needed "before 25 EU member states can proceed with plans to create a single unified system to recognise each others’ patents". This statement can be nuanced a bit. Certainly, If all 25 signatories to the agreement are to recognize each others’ patents than all have 25 have to ratify and thus also Ireland. It is not the case however that Ireland can veto the Unified patent court. Ratification is needed of 13 contracting member states, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Assuming the latter three ratify, and ten more other countries do so as well, then the Unified Patent Court will happen, with or without Ireland.

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