Baroness Neville Rolfe, the UK Minister responsible for intellectual property, has announced that over the coming months the UK will proceed with preparations to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement (the "UPCA").

The UPCA forms part of the process needed to establish the Unified Patent Court and the Unitary Patent, a new EU-wide framework that will enable businesses to obtain and enforce a single patent across the participating EU Member States.

As previously reported by us here, the Unified Patent Court and the Unitary Patent can only be established if the UPCA is 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 it was originally anticipated that the UK would ratify the UPCA in 2016, however, in light of Brexit, the future of the Unified Patent Court had been left uncertain.

This development is significant and confirms the UK's commitment to the establishment of the Unified Patent Court, a central division of which is to be located in London. The system may now, once the UPCA is ratified by Germany, be up and running as soon as 2017. It still remains to be seen however how the system will be affected by Brexit should the court be established before the UK exits the EU.

The announcement is also notable as it suggests that a softer Brexit than anticipated might be sought by the UK, as participation in the Unified Patent Court will require Member States to accept the decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union, at least in relation to patent law.