Patently Obvious: London is the best destination for the EU
London has many advantages over its competitors in terms of acting as home for the EU Patent Court. The case is laid out here
On Wednesday, the EU's Competitiveness Council will conclude 40-odd years of negotiation on the regime for a pan-European patent litigation system.
There is, however, one critical issue that still needs to be decided, namely the location of the Central Division for the proposed court system. There are three principal contenders, namely Paris, Munich and London.
London is by far the best location for the system in order for it to work efficiently; and also that if the court were located in the London, then that would bring tangible economic benefits to the UK.
It is proposed that the language in which any particular case would be heard is the same as the language of the patent.
At least 70% of European patents are granted in English, as are all US patents, which often form relevant prior art. The language of international commerce and dispute resolution is English. So it makes sense to have the Central Division in a country in which English is the native language of those involved, in particular the support staff that are needed to run the necessary administration to ensure the smooth operation of the system.
International, and many EU, litigants would prefer to converse with foreigners in English, rather than French or German.
London has an indisputably world-class judiciary that is pre-eminent in patent litigation.
Some of the largest telecommunications, pharmaceutical and biotechnology cases have been litigated in London, because the parties actively have chosen this jurisdiction to settle their differences.
The High Court system in the UK is particularly efficient. It has a proven track record of delivering high-quality judgments quickly (sometimes in as little as a few months, but typically within about 12 months from commencement to judgment after a full trial of both infringement and validity).
In this regard, the courts are supported and serviced by a large and talented patent profession as London hosts more international law and patent attorney firms than any other European city.
London is an easy destination for international parties to reach, as it has more international direct transport links than any other European City.
Further, it has all the necessary ancillary amenities to facilitate the productive stay for the professionals involved. Not only does it have a multitude of hotels and restaurants, but it also hosts large communities of native speakers from across the whole world, and so international parties will be able to find easily support staff to whom they can converse directly and efficiently.
As to Paris, it simply it does not have the patent litigation reputation that London has. Nor does it have such good infra-structure to support multi-party, international dispute resolution.
As to Munich, it is the home to the European Patent Office, and if the related court system were sited there as well, then there would be a clear conflict of interest due to the proximity of the Court ruling upon the validity of patents that were granted just down the road by the European Patent Office – this is especially critical given that Munich has proposed to share resources between the two institutions.
If the Central Division were to be sited in London, then there would be a massive direct and indirect benefit to the economy.
This is because there would be a large increase in the amount of patent litigation, possibly increasing by about 5-fold on a present base of £200 million in direct professional fees and £500 million in indirect advisory and related services. The EPO told the Bavarian government that the presence of the EPO in Munich was worth about €4 billion per annum to the local economy, due to the presence of 7,000 skilled staff and all the related facilities that they required.
Even though the Court would be international in nature, it would be natural for there to be a large preponderance of employees drawn from London.
The estimated size of the institution alone would require about 2000 members of staff, but in addition there would be judges, judicial assistants, experts, patent attorneys, translators and support staff.
Further, with such a concentration of IP and in particular patent expertise, it would be attractive for companies to locate their IP departments in London, which would then act as a hub for IP expertise for the whole of Europe.
All of these people would require accommodation and entertainment that would benefit the related service industries. If the Central Division were to go to Paris or Munich, not only would London not reap the rewards, but the current patent and related IP markets would decrease significantly, and UK businesses would have to pay higher costs to source their IP advice from abroad.
For these reasons, the Central Division of the proposed United Patent Court should be located in London.
If it were located anywhere else, then the resultant Court would be poorer as a result, and the UK would miss out on a significant economic boost.
Michael Edenborough Q.C. is a barrister specialising in intellectual property, copyright and trademark law
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