On World IP Day (26 April 2018), it was announced that the UK has ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPC Agreement). Now only ratification by Germany is needed for the legislation to come into force.

What is the Unitary Patent?

Currently, when a European patent application is granted, it essentially becomes a “bundle” of individual national patents; one in each state in which it is validated.

A unitary patent will be a single, indivisible right and will cover most member states of the European Patent Convention (EPC). After the relevant legislation comes into force, it will be possible to obtain a so-called unitary patent by requesting unitary effect within one month of grant of a European patent.

What is the Unified Patent Court?

The Unified Patent Court (UPC) will be a new international court which will have jurisdiction over all unitary patents. It will also have jurisdiction over nationally validated European patents in states covered by the UPC, provided that patentees have not elected to opt out their patents from the UPC’s jurisdiction before any legal proceedings commence.

When are the changes happening?

German ratification of the Agreement will trigger the legislation to come into force. However, ratification in Germany is currently on hold due to a legal challenge at the German Constitutional Court, which is expected to be decided this year. The earliest date for the new legislation to commence is likely to be early 2019. Watch this space for further developments.