In late May 2015, the citizens of Ireland voted in two separate referendums to amend the Constitution of Ireland; one to mandate provision for same-sex marriage and one to reduce the minimum age of candidacy for the office of President of Ireland. Following these two referendums, James Reilly, the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, confirmed that the Irish Government has decided not to hold any further referendums during the current term of office. Consequently, Ireland will not be voting in respect of ratifying the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC), at the earliest, until 2016.
Under the new European Court regime, the UPC will (ultimately) have exclusive competence in respect of civil litigation matters relating to European Patents, which will include the Irish (and other national) validations of European Patents. The transfer of jurisdiction in respect of these Irish-validated European Patents from the Irish Courts to the UPC requires an amendment to the Irish Constitution, which can only be effected if passed by popular vote of the Irish public.
The Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) must request the President of Ireland to dissolve the current Government and to call a general election no later than 3 April 2016 to elect a new Government. Resultantly, it would appear that any referendum will not be held until the middle of 2016 and, if passed, the ratification of the Agreement on a UPC might not be legislated until late 2016 or even early 2017.
The current Irish Government consists of a Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition, which has previously welcomed the establishment of both the UPC and of an Irish local division of the Court. However, the decision on whether (and when) to call a referendum to allow ratification of the Agreement on a UPC will rest with the incoming Government.
The Preparatory Committee of the UPC noted, at its seventh meeting (held in Brussels in November 2014), that many Member States hope to be able to ratify the Agreement on the UPC during 2015. However, there are currently only six Signatory States who have ratified and the Committee has since committed to update the time frame of new milestones to be achieved, in view of some of the political hurdles to be overcome in each of the Member States.
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