Irish Referendum to join Unified Patent Court

Map of Ireland with patent

The Irish government approved on January 23rd a proposal to hold a constitutional referendum in June on Ireland’s participation in the Unified Patent Court. The referendum will be held alongside the European and local elections in the country.

The Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPCA), providing for the setting up of an International Court between contracting states, was signed in February 2013 by 25 EU Member States, including Ireland. An amendment to Article 29 of the Irish Constitution to add the UPC Agreement as an international agreement to the Constitution is required before Ireland can join the UPC, as the UPCA entails a transfer of jurisdiction in patent litigation from the Irish courts to an international court.

Should the outcome of the referendum be positive, then Ireland will join the UPC and become the 18th participating state, joining the current 17 UPC members: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden. The potential geographic reach of an injunction granted by the UPC would then extend to Ireland, and European patents, currently designating Ireland, would also become subject to revocation by the UPC if these patents are not opted out of the UPC jurisdiction.

The states covered by a unitary patent (UP) are fixed as those participating in the UPC & UP system at the date that unitary effect is granted. This means that the addition of Ireland to the UPC states would not change the coverage of UPs registered before Ireland joined. However, EPs granted unitary effect on or after the date of Ireland joining would cover all 18 states.