The Irish government has announced a referendum in June this year to allow it to participate in the Unified Patent Court.

This move will allow a Local Division of the Court to be established in Dublin. Although Ireland presently has a relatively low volume of IP litigation, a Dublin branch of the Court is likely to prove a popular venue for international businesses, particularly from English-speaking countries.

Following the UK’s withdrawal from the system after Brexit, a Dublin Local Division would be the only one hosted in a common law country, and the only one in an English-speaking country. All of the divisions of the Court are able to hear at least some cases in English and recent data from the UPC shows that more than 40% of current cases are already heard in English. Ireland’s courts have a high standing internationally and the country also hosts many global IP-focussed technology and pharmaceutical companies.

The UPC Agreement allows infringement proceedings to be brought in a Local/Regional Division either where the infringement takes place or where one of the defendants has its principle place of business, so Dublin would be able to hear cases relating to many EU-wide disputes, in addition to those against locally-based businesses. Aside from being able to bring such proceedings in English, litigants may anticipate the Division in Dublin being more predisposed to deploy common-law-influenced aspects of the UPC system, such as ordering disclosure of documents and allowing more extensive cross-examination of witnesses, and perhaps placing greater weight on expert reports.

The referendum is required under Ireland’s constitution because joining the UPC involves a transfer of jurisdiction from national courts to the international UPC. It is being timed to take place alongside European and local elections.