Estonia and Slovenia have each almost completed the steps required for participation in the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC) system, with further developments this week: on 4 July Estonia’s Act amending national patent and other laws was published in the State Gazette, and on 3 July Slovenia deposited its instrument of ratification of the UPC’s Protocol on Privileges and Immunities (PPI) with the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU (the ‘depositary’).
Estonia’s Act amends national laws to provide for issues such as the recognition of unitary patents, the jurisdiction of the UPC and the enforcement of UPC decisions, and will come into force when the UPC Agreement (UPCA) comes into force. As Estonia’s ‘UPC Ratification Act’, ratifying both the UPCA and the Agreement on a Nordic-Baltic regional division of the UPC, has now come into force (on 26 June 2017), Estonia may decide to deposit its instrument of ratification of the UPCA with the depositary, so making the ratification effective. Also, as Estonia’s consent to be bound by the UPCA’s Protocol on Provisional Application (PPA) has been published in the State Gazette (reported here), once Estonia deposits its instrument of ratification of the UPCA, its consent to the PPA may be recorded by the EU Council here. Regarding the PPI, as reported here, although the Nordic-Baltic regional division’s seat will be in Stockholm, it is intended that each participating country (Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) will provide facilities for hearings, and Estonia has designated the Harju County Court (in Tallinn); therefore, it is expected that Estonia will in due course accede to the PPI (and deposit its instrument of accession with the depositary) to provide the privileges and immunities necessary for those UPC hearings.
As reported here, Slovenia is planning to host a local division of the UPC and one of the two seats of the UPC’s Patent Mediation and Arbitration Centre and it signed the PPI on 23 June 2017. The depositary here now records that Slovenia’s instrument of ratification of the PPI was deposited on 3 July 2017 and also records a Declaration that states, in summary, that the Republic of Slovenia considers that the Patent Mediation and Arbitration Centre is part of the UPC and that consequently the provisions of the PPI apply mutatis mutandis to the Centre. (Article 35 UPCA establishes the Centre and provides that its seats will be in Ljubljana and Lisbon, and Article 39 UPCA provides that the Centre’s operating costs are financed by the Court’s budget.) Regarding the status of Slovenia’s other preparations for UPC participation: although a law ratifying the UPCA came into force in October 2016 Slovenia has not yet deposited its instrument of ratification; and it signed the PPA in October 2015 but (unlike some other countries) for this to constitute binding consent a further step, such as ratification or approval, is required (Article 2 PPA).
Therefore, both Estonia and Slovenia are close to joining the eight countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden) which have completed the steps necessary for the provisional application phase to start. If they do so, then, apart from Germany and the UK, only one more member state would need to take action (as the PPA will come into force the day after France, Germany, the UK and 10 other states have ratified or informed the depositary that they have parliamentary approval to ratify the UPCA; and have consented to be bound by the PPA).