Unified Patent Court

UPC publishes list of the acceptable languages before the local and regional divisions

Published on 31st May 2023

The language of proceedings has caused controversy but the system adopted provides some flexibility for claimants

People in a meeting and close up of a gavel

For claims brought in a local or regional division (which will primarily be claims for infringement), the proceedings of the new Unified Patent Court (UPC) may be conducted in the official language (or one of the official languages) of the state hosting the division, or one or more of the official languages of the European Patent Office (EPO), as designated by the division of the court. 

Each of the local and regional divisions has the choice to nominate one or more of English, German, and French (the three official languages of the EPO) as acceptable languages of proceedings in their division.

The UPC published an official list of the nominated languages of each division prior to the launch. Other than the local divisions in Germany, France and Italy, all of the local and regional divisions had nominated English as an acceptable language of proceedings before 1 June. The Nordic-Baltic regional division (covering Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia) has gone one step further – English is the only nominated language of proceedings in that division. However, France, Germany and Italy made a late U-turn on the day of the UPC's launch to include English as an acceptable language.

In proceedings before the Central Division (which will primarily be claims for revocation or declarations of non-infringement), the language of proceedings will be the language of the patent in suit. The language of the patent may also be permitted before the local and regional divisions if the parties agree and the panel approves, or if one party requests it (in practice, this is likely to be the defendant) and the president of the Court of First Instance approves the request on grounds of fairness.

Osborne Clarke comment

It is not surprising to see so many of the local and regional divisions of the UPC offering English as an acceptable language of proceedings. English is the dominant language of business across the globe, and the ability to conduct proceedings in English, if desired, can only benefit the attractiveness of the UPC as a forum for patent litigation.

Perhaps more surprising was the refusal,  prior to the 1 June, of the German, French, and Italian local divisions to allow the use of English. These three countries will be home to the three branches of the Central Division, where proceedings will frequently be conducted in English due to it being the language of the patent in suit.

Moreover, where there is infringement across Europe, patentees will have a choice of UPC local divisions in which to bring their claim. The German local divisions were, and still are, expected to be popular choices due to the local courts' experience of hearing patent cases.

This Insight was updated on Friday 2 June 2023.

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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