On 10 March 2017, the Bundestag (German Parliament) unanimously passed two bills regarding the ratification of the Unified Patent Court (“UPC”) Agreement (Gesetz zu dem Übereinkommen vom 19. Februar 2013 über ein Einheitliches Patentgericht) and the related changes in the national patent law (Gesetz zur Anpassung patentrechtlicher Vorschriften auf Grund der europäischen Patentreform).
As a next step in the legislative process, the bills will be submitted to the Bundesrat (Representatives of Federal States) which will discuss them on 31 March. After their likely approval, the bills will be signed, certified by the Bundespräsident (Federal President) and enter into force one day after promulgation in the Federal Law Gazette. As of today, 12 countries have already ratified the UPC Agreement, among them France and Italy. For the system to enter into force only the further ratifications of Germany and the UK are needed. If UK legislation follows the German endeavours soon, the envisaged start of the unified patent system will be possible in December 2017. Even Spain, one of the few EU countries that did not sign the UPC Agreement, might change its attitude soon. A non-binding motion in the Congreso de los Diputados (Spanish Parliament) from 7 March 2017 called on the Spanish minority government to reconsider its position and join the unified patent system.
With the unified patent system coming into force, a comprehensive patent for all participating states will be available. The UPC will have exclusive competence regarding European patents and European patents with unitary effect. These two pillars of the system will limit costs and secure quick and efficient legal protection. Corporations should take these developments into account and sharpen their patent strategies for the options about to unfold.