Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Representing parties at the UPC by European Patent Attorneys

The new unified patent court requires parties to be represented, either by lawyers or by European Patent Attorneys. Apart from having passed the EQE the patent attorneys need additional "appropriate qualifications". Those patent attorneys that are allowed to represent parties at the UPC are registered. (Article 48 of the agreement). 

What appropriate qualifications are has been a subject for debate for a while. The agreement only stipulates that having a "European Patent Litigation Certificate" would be one way to demonstrate the appropriate qualifications. Further rules will be set by the Administrative Committee of the unified patent court. 

The draft regulates how the European Patent Litigation Certificate may be acquired and what other types of appropriate qualifications there are. 

You can get a Patent Litigation Certificate if you complete a corresponding course at an accredited university. This involves passing a written and oral examination. The course should take at least 120 hours to complete, but may this may partially be done using E-learning facilities

The draft also gives a number of alternative ways to demonstrate the appropriate qualifications. These include a bachelor or master degree in law. During a transitional period, one may also pass particular courses of Ceipi, FernUniversität Hagen, or Nottingham Law School; or demonstrate experience with patent litigation.

A Patent Attorney who wishes to represent parties before the Unified Patent Court and who has the required qualifications may request registration on the list of entitled representatives. A patent attorney who is not allowed to represent parties, are nevertheless allowed to speak at hearings of the Court, if they assist a representatives of a party.

The proposal is not definite yet, so any part may change.  It strikes me that one the one hand the requirements are quite strict, e.g., a 120 hours minimum, a long list of subjects, but on the other hand any University in a contracting state can offer a course, and issue certificates. Although the draft calls for accreditation, it appears that this will only verify that all required subjects are indeed covered. Accreditation does not specify how hard the Exam will have to be.

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