Ireland to hold UPC referendum in June, govt confirms
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Ireland to hold UPC referendum in June, govt confirms

Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin
Dublin, which could host the next local division of the Unified Patent Court

The vote will be held alongside local and European elections, although the exact date has not been set

Ireland will hold a referendum on whether to join the Unified Patent Court system in June, its government confirmed yesterday, January 23.

The vote will be held on the same day as local and European elections, although an exact date has not yet been confirmed.

Ireland must pass a constitutional amendment in order to ratify its membership of the UPC, as joining the system entails a transfer of jurisdiction to an international court.

Constitutional amendments in Ireland can only be approved by referendum.

The government has already committed to opening a local division of the court in the capital city of Dublin if Ireland’s membership of the system is approved.

Business leaders had expressed frustration over a delay in organising the referendum, which will come a year after the court began hearing cases in June 2023.

Opposition party Sinn Féin has yet to take a public position on whether it will support the UPC.

Speaking to Managing IP, Michael Finn, partner at Bird & Bird in Dublin, said an Irish local division would be an attractive option to litigants from the common law tradition.

Ireland would be the only common law jurisdiction participating in the UPC. The UK, which operates a common law system, notably withdrew from the UPC in 2020.

“Many of the principles that have been meshed into UPC Rules of Procedure are common law principles.

“The judge appointed to the Irish division will be familiar with those and that will be attractive to multinationals coming from a common law background,” Finn said.

He added that he was confident the referendum would pass but added that he expects debate over some of the civil law relief measures available in the UPC.

“I haven’t seen any negative campaign around the UPC yet but there are some remedies in the UPC that we are not familiar with in common law jurisdictions.

“For example, saisie [seizure] orders could be served against companies based in Ireland.

“We are explaining that to clients but we’re also explaining the many benefits of the UPC,” he said.

Aidan Sweeney, head of enterprise and regulatory affairs at the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, said on social media that Ireland stood to “gain significantly” from joining the UPC.

“Ireland is uniquely positioned to establish itself on the international stage as a patent enforcement hotspot,” he said.

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