The Court of Appeal of the Unified Patent Court

… first decision, first conclusions!

The Court of Appeal of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) has recently issued its “inaugural” order, marking a significant milestone since the commencement of the UPC system on June 1, 2023. As anticipated for a newly established court, this initial appellate order addresses a procedural matter rather than the substantive merits of the case.

Much like decisions from the Boards of Appeal at the European Patent Office, the UPC Court of Appeal's order includes informative headnotes that succinctly encapsulate the key rulings. However, a more comprehensive understanding necessitates a deeper look into the underlying reasoning. 

Consequently, let's examine the intricacies of this first decision.

In an infringement case, the claimant (Amgen) omitted the upload of certain exhibits to their Statement of Claim onto the Case Management System.

The court ruled that a statement of claim could be validly served without exhibits, challenging the argument put forth by the Defendant (Sanofi and Regeneron) that completeness only occurred upon receipt of annexes on August 10, 2023. The Court of Appeals disagreed, asserting that RoP 13.1 outlines the necessary information in a statement of claim, aligning with the EU Service Regulation. A statement of claim fulfilling the EU Regulation's requirements, as interpreted by the CJEU, is deemed "complete" for RoP 19.1 and 23 purposes, even without all or any annexes.

While this clarified a crucial aspect, the decision also highlighted the need for fairness and equality of arms. The court criticized the Local Division for not considering general principles of fairness when granting defendants only a few days to compensate for the delay in supplying exhibits. The court underscored that RoP 13.2 serves the purpose of enabling the defendant to prepare a Statement of Defense comprehensively, ensuring fairness and equity, and that this obligation applies to all documents referenced in the statement of claim.

Importantly, the court acknowledged that the Rules of Procedure grant flexibility, allowing (under certain circumstances) rejection of an action as inadmissible or disregarding late-filed exhibits. However, if the court chooses not to exercise these discretionary powers, it must, upon a reasoned request, ensure that fairness and equity principles are upheld. The CoA extended the terms for defendants, calculated from the date the claimant uploaded the annexes.

This decision not only provides clarity on the submission of exhibits but also emphasizes the claimant's responsibility to adhere to procedural rules. The ruling reflects a meticulous examination of the purpose and system of the Rules of Procedure, aiming to maintain fairness and equity in the litigation process. Additionally, it addresses linguistic differences in the RoP, suggesting that examining the English and French versions could provide valuable insights into the intended purpose and overall system of the Rules.

Our first conclusions:

  • The Court of Appeal's approach appears to avoid undue formalism, displaying a balanced and pragmatic stance.
  • Notably, the validity of serving a statement of claim without exhibits is acknowledged. Even not relevant for the decision, this aspect gains significance, especially in revocation proceedings, where an opt-out request is submitted after the statement of claim, possibly lacking essential exhibits.
  • In the case of missing exhibits, the Court of Appeal (CoA) extended the deadlines for the defendants, calculating them from the date when the claimant uploaded the exhibits to the CMS.
  • The court criticized a practice that neglects the application of general fairness principles when granting a party only a limited additional timeframe (in the present case: a few days) to address a delay caused by the other party.
  • The Court of Appeal, echoing several first-instance decisions, underscores the pivotal role of considering all three languages in which the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA) and the Rules of Procedure (RoP) are formulated. This emphasis on linguistic nuances is crucial for a comprehensive and accurate interpretation of the legal framework.