HC 1799 European Scrutiny CommitteeWritten evidence from the Office of the City Remembrancer, the City of London Corporation

1. The City Corporation recognises the serious concerns which have been expressed about the current proposal by professional representatives, particularly in relation to questions of language, the involvement of the C.J.E.U., and the potential for British businesses to fall subject to “bifurcated” proceedings. The Corporation is not a specialist body, and accordingly is not best placed to comment on these issues, or indeed on other technical details of the proposal. Accordingly, this submission proceeds on the assumption that a satisfactory agreement can be reached on the substantive questions under discussion, so as to secure a unified patents system which attracts the confidence of practitioners while bringing wider economic benefits for the Single Market.

2. On this basis, the City Corporation affirms its strong support for London as the home of the Central Division of the proposed Unified Patent Court, and welcomes the Government’s efforts to secure this outcome at the negotiating table. The essential consideration is that the proposed system must be capable of attracting major international clients, if it is to be a success for the E.U. This makes it important that the Central Division is located in a city with global commercial reach, an established reputation for legal excellence, and the material and human infrastructure to support it. On the basis of these criteria, London—as Europe’s preeminent centre for the international provision of legal and other professional services—would appear to provide the natural choice.

3. The extent of the success of London’s legal sector in attracting the confidence of international clients is demonstrated by a report of TheCityUK published in 2011.1 On the latest figures then available, from 2009, over half of the total revenue of the 100 largest law firms in the U.K. (some £13.7 billion) was generated by international firms based in London. Around 90% of disputes handled by international firms in London involved at least one party based outside the U.K., and the same was true of some three quarters of cases brought to London’s Commercial Court. Net exports of legal services from the U.K. amounted to some £2.5 billion, the major part of which was attributable to firms based in London. A further indication of London’s unrivalled strength in dispute resolution is provided by a study on international arbitration published by White & Case in 2010.2 In a survey of global corporations, 30% expressed a preference for London as the seat of international arbitration; its closest competitors were Geneva, on 9%, and Paris, on 7%.

4. The City Corporation has strongly supported the efforts of the Government and professional bodies to maintain and enhance London’s competitive position in the legal sector. This coordinated commitment has most recently been manifested in the opening of the Rolls Building in the City of London (for which the City Corporation provided advisory services and other non-pecuniary support). This building—a state-of-the-art centre for the adjudication of a comprehensive range of commercial disputes, including those involving intellectual property—is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, and its opening demonstrates London’s continuing resolve to offer an attractive and accommodating destination for international litigants. To coincide with the opening of the Rolls Building, the City Corporation has been working together with TheCityUK, the Bar Council, the Law Society of England & Wales, and members of the English judiciary on the “Unlocking Disputes” campaign, which aims to promote London’s dispute resolution capabilities to a global audience.

5. It has already been widely remarked that other countries already host European intellectual property institutions: for instance, the E.P.O. in Munich, the Plant Variety Office in Angers, and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) in Alicante. On this point and more broadly, it might be argued that the U.K. has a comparative dearth of significant European institutions, given its size and importance. In this light, the location of the Central Division in London would serve as a valuable affirmation of the prominent role played by London and the U.K. in the Single Market.

6. Aside from the general points made above, London has many obvious advantages in specific relation to patent litigation. Its specialist courts boast an undisputed technical and legal expertise among judges and advocates alike, and a long-standing track record of adjudicating on the most complex and challenging disputes. English is, increasingly, the international language of choice in commercial and scientific fields, as is pertinently demonstrated by the fact that some 55–60% of patent specifications filed at the E.P.O. are written in English (compared to approximately 30–35% in German and 10–15% in French).3 Moreover, given that the prospect of bifurcated proceedings has given rise to significance concerns among practitioners and businesses alike, London has the benefit that its practitioners and judges are already well used to resolving disputes about patents in a speedy and effective manner without recourse to bifurcation. As the willingness of the Central Division to resolve questions of validity in a timely manner is essential to counteract the potential disadvantages of bifurcation, London would make the optimal choice.

The international provision of professional and business services is set to form an increasingly important part of Europe’s competitive position in the global economy. The City Corporation firmly believes that London’s success in these areas should be viewed as an important asset not just for the U.K., but for the E.U. as a whole. The situation of the Central Division in London would capitalise on London’s long-established strengths, in order to maximise London’s contribution and that of the Unified Patent Court to the future prosperity of the Single Market.

7 February 2012

1 TheCityUK, “Legal Services Report 2011”, February, 2011.

2 White & Case LLP, “2010 International Arbitration Survey: Choices in International Arbitration”, October, 2010.

3 Figures from Dialog LLC, “European Patents Fulltext”, “Bluesheet” #348, November, 2009.

Prepared 1st May 2012