Today, the Preparatory Committee of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) published a statement (here) announcing that the timetable for the start of the UPC Agreement provisional application period and target date for entry into operation of the UPC, envisaged for 1 December 2017, will have to be postponed. The Committee did not provide a new target date at this stage, but committed to publishing a new timetable as soon as possible. The reason behind the postponement is that some Member States have not yet completed the steps required to declare themselves bound by the UPC Agreement’s Protocol on Provisional Application. (The Protocol on Provisional Application allows various parts of the Agreement to come into force early and the ‘provisional application phase’ to start, during which final preparations for the start of the UPC system, such as recruitment of judges, can be completed.) The Preparatory Committee noted that the national procedures of those Member States which have not yet completed ratification of the UPC Agreement and participation in the Provisional Application Protocol are being closely monitored.
As reported here, following last week’s meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council, Commissioner Bieńkowska stated that three more Member States are required to complete steps to allow for the provisional application period to commence. The Protocol will come into force the day after 13 states (including France, Germany and the UK) have either ratified or informed the ‘depositary’ that they have parliamentary approval to ratify the UPC Agreement; and have consented to be bound by the Protocol. Eight Member States already meet this requirement (Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden); and both Germany and the UK have each consented to the Protocol. Austria, Bulgaria, Malta and Portugal have each ratified the UPC Agreement but have not yet consented to the Protocol, and it appears that other countries (such as Greece, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia) may be in a position to enable the Provisional Application Phase to start before the summer break.
The UPC Preparatory Committee also informed that an operational team is overseeing the final preparations to allow for the recruitment of judges, and testing the IT and case management systems to ensure they are ready by the time the court starts operating. All candidates who submitted applications to become UPC judges will receive a new timeline for the recruitment process as soon as possible.