"The draft treaty on a unified patent court follows the steer given by the Commission's non-paper on this issue, discussed by Member States' ministers in May. The suggestion then was to respond to the Court of Justice's negative opinion on the draft treaty creating a court with jurisdiction over EU patents and European patents alike by amending that draft treaty as follows: (a) only EU Member States would be parties, ie not the EU itself and not any non-Member States; and (b) making specific adjustments to reflect the Court of Justice's concern that the patent court should be subject to the same controls as regards EU law as the national courts of Member States. Otherwise the substance of that treaty would remain basically the same, in particular as regards the patent court's exclusive jurisdiction over key aspects of patent litigation, and the basic structure of the patent court (several first instance divisions, a centralised appeal division).
The outgoing Hungarian presidency of the EU Council has therefore drawn up a revised draft treaty which follows these precepts, but adds a few additional suggested changes. It has also suggested a revision of the draft Statute of the Court to match.
The presidency did not list the changes which it made to the draft treaty as existed in 2009, and therefore did not explain those changes either. The following is a list of the changes as far as I can discern them (leaving aside some consequential amendments), with some comments on their implications:
(a) the name of the court is now the 'Unified Patent Court';
(b) the EU is not to become a contracting party, and neither are any non-Member States -- although the first recital in the preamble still refers to the EEA (ie including Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) for some unknown reason;
(c) recitals 3, 4, 7 and 9-14 in the preamble are new. Note that recital 14 (the last one), as suggested by the non-paper, invites the two Member States (Spain and Italy) who are not taking part in enhanced cooperation as regards the EU's unitary patent to sign up to this treaty, as regards litigation over European patents only;
(d) the old recital 3 (now 5) in the preamble is amended to refer to jurisdiction over revocation;
(e) the old recital 4 in the preamble, which invited all EPC states to sign the treaty, has been dropped;
(f) a new second para in Article 1 explains the patent court's role in the judicial system of the EU;
(g) some amendments to the definitions in Article 2 were necessary to take account of the changes in contracting parties, also the nature of the EU (now unitary) patent project;
(h) in Article 3 there is no longer a reference to compulsory licences - this issue has been dropped from the unitary patent project and left to national law, as confirmed by recital 9a in the preamble to the agreed text of the unitary patent regulation;
(i) in Article 9 and throughout, the 'Mixed Committee' is now renamed the 'Administrative Committee';
(j) a new Chapter IIIA - Articles 14a to 14d - concerns the role of EU law - and deals with in turn i) the primacy of EU law (new Article 14a); ii) preliminary rulings to the Court of Justice from the patent court on EU law issues (Article 14b) - this was Article 37 in the 2009 version, and remains unchanged apart from being 'gussied up'; iii) damages liability for Member States if the patent court gets EU law wrong, as the Court of Justice insisted upon (new Article 14c); and iv) liability for Member States pursuant to the EU law infringement procedure, again if the patent court gets EU law wrong, as the Court of Justice insisted upon (new Article 14d). It should be noted that the Court of Justice would not have jurisdiction to interpret the patent court treaty itself - it would have done in the 2009 version, by virtue of the EU being party to the treaty creating the patent court;
(k) the old Chapter IIIA becomes Chapter IIIB - now Articles 14e to 14k;
(l) the EU Commission loses a role drawing up the patent court's rules of procedure (Article 22(2)) - in fact the Commission already drew up draft rules of procedure, which presumably will not just be thrown in the bin;
(m) there is a new clause on languages (Article 31(3)), designed it seems to boost defendants' rights - this is perhaps a response to concerns expressed in the *Advocates-Generals' opinion* on the draft patent court treaty on this issue;
(n) as regards decisions on the validity of a patent, the cross-references to the EU Regulation have been removed (Article 38a(2) and (4));
(o) the EU no longer has a role in the budget committee (Article 57a);
(p) the Commission is no longer involved in the advisory committee (Article 57b);
(q) accession is now open to any Member State of the EU, rather than any signatory of the EPC (Article 58a);
(r) there is a new clause allowing for simplified revision (Article 58d(1)) - the previous paras 1 and 3 have been dropped. Oddly there is no longer any reference to amending the treaty by the usual means of treaty amendment;
(s) the treaty now is more clear about its entry into force (Article 59) - it will enter into force when a (so far unspecified) number of Member States have ratified - including the 3 Member States with the biggest number of European patents - this basically follows Article 6(1) of the London Agreement on EPC patent translation - that agreement named the minimum number of parties as 8. In contrast the draft EPLA referred to ratification by only one of the three states with the biggest number of patents, plus an unspecified minimum number of states. This draft raises the prospect that the treaty will not need to be ratified by all of the EU Member States (or even all of them participating in the unitary patent) to enter into force. This is crucial because, in the agreed text of the unitary patent regulation, the unitary patent cannot be operational until the patent litigation treaty enters into force -- and because there were, of course, problems in the past ratifying the two earlier attempts at a Community patent convention (1976 and 1989) among all EEC Member States".NOTE: since posting this, Steve has written to suggest that it might be useful for readers to have a link to the 2009 version of the patent litigation treaty, ie the draft which the ECJ rejected and to which he referred: it's here.