The Unified Patent Court (the "UPC") Preparatory Committee has recently released a timeline outlining its entry into force, announcing that the Provisional Application Phase will commence at the end of spring 2017 with the court becoming operational in December 2017.

This timeline of events is conditional on the Unified Patent Court Agreement (the "UPCA") being ratified by the three EU Member States with the highest number of patents in force in the preceding year (currently France, Germany and the UK). The UPCA has already been ratified by France, and as previously reported by us here, the UK announced its intention to ratify the UPCA in late November 2016. It is not clear yet how this intention marries with Theresa May's subsequent announcement on the UK's 'Hard Brexit' plans. Further, even if the UK does ratify the UPCA, it remains to be seen whether Germany will do so in these circumstances.

The UPC is set to have exclusive jurisdiction for litigation relating to all patents granted by the European Patent Office ("European Patents") and European Patents with unitary effect ("Unitary Patents"). European Patent holders, however, will have a three month Sunrise Period (September-December 2017) during which they will have the opportunity to opt existing European Patents out of the UPC's jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, in light of Ms May's aforementioned announcement, current and prospective European Patent holders should now consider whether or not they will avail of the proposed Sunrise Period or whether they will submit their European Patents to the jurisdiction of the UPC.

The UPC Preparatory Committee will meet again in March 2017 and details of their work programme are due to be published shortly on the UPC website.