The Unified Patent Court will become fully operational and accept its first cases on 1 April 2023, according to the roadmap published by the UPC Preparatory team on 6 October 2022. This date is not set in stone and may still be put back, should the final preparations for the new court take longer than anticipated. However, it is a definite statement of intent and looks realistic.
A starting date of 1 April 2023 will require Germany to deposit its instrument of ratification of the Unified Patent Court Agreement during December 2022. This is an administrative formality and, assuming it happens, the roadmap indicates that the "sunrise period" will start on 1 January 2023. This will last for 3 months and, most importantly, will provide a period before the UPC becomes fully operational during which European patent holders, who do not wish their existing European patents to be subject to the jurisdiction of the new court, may file opt-out notifications with the court's Registry. The European Patent Office has also announced that during the sunrise period European patent applicants whose patent applications are ready for grant will, if they wish, be able to delay the formal grant of the application until the UPC becomes operational, so that unitary patent protection can be obtained.
We can now be confident that the Unified Patent Court, which has been so long in coming - the UPC Agreement was signed back in 2013, is now just a few months away. Patent proprietors who have not already decided on their opt-out choices should therefore work with their patent attorneys without delay to ensure that appropriate opt-out notifications can be filed on time. Furthermore, the UPC will have major consequences for enforcement strategies in European patent disputes and will need to be factored into all future litigation planning.