The long-awaited unitary patent and Unified Patent Court are nearly here, with the system expected to come into effect late this year or early 2023.

In the life sciences sector, patent licensors, licensees, and co-owners should dust off their notes and check that their current and future agreements are UPC ready, both in relation to current European patents and the strategy for filing patents in the future.

Small and early stage biotech companies who have relatively few products in their pipelines could see their businesses devastated if the patents covering the technology are subject to a central attack, and similarly, investors in those companies may be equally concerned about this risk.

Larger and more established pharma companies will also have to consider this risk in relation to potentially very profitable product lines, but may be able to take a broader view in some cases – although they are likely to tread much more carefully when making decisions in relation to core patents in their portfolios (such as compounds patents).

Anyone planning licensing or collaboration deals should agree a strategy related to European patents in the agreement – an exercise better started sooner rather than later.