The UK government has scheduled a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) for 23 June 2016. While many commentators predict the outcome will be not to leave the EU, regardless of the outcome, this will have no effect on the European Patent Convention (EPC). The UK is a member state of the EPC and its membership in the EU has no bearing. The European Patent Office (EPO) is not an EU institution and will still be able to grant patent applications that can be validated in the UK. Representation rights of British European patent attorneys before the EPO also remain unaffected.

Looking ahead to 2017 when the Unified Patent Court (UPC), an EU institution, is expected to open its doors, a Brexit would not stop this going forward but may affect whether a Central Division of the Court will still be located in London. Also the jurisdiction of the UPC will not extend to the UK.

Although other UK legal professions may be affected, British European patent attorneys can still have full representation rights before the UPC and would still be able to obtain EU Unitary Patents on behalf of their clients.

To read more about the UPC please go to ‘European Patent Practice – The Unitary Patent System and the Unified Patent Court’.