In a surprising development, the UK Government announced, on November 28, 2016, of its intention to ratify the Agreement on a Unitary Patent Court (UPC). With this announcement, and the subsequent expected ratification, the long awaited Unitary Patent in Europe may become a reality in 2017.
In December 2012, following an earlier European Council decision in June of that year, the European Parliament voted on the formation of a pan-European patent system which includes a Unitary Patent (UP) effective in all participating EU member states and a Unitary Patent Court (UPC) having jurisdiction over all such member states. The coming into effect of this pan-European patent system requires ratification of the UPC Agreement by at least 13 EU countries that must include Germany, France and the UK.
The results of the Brexit referendum in the UK cast uncertainty over the implementation of the unitary patent system, in Europe. Now, in an unexpected development, the UK Government announced its intention to proceed with the ratification of the UPC Agreement. The announcement was made on November 28, 2016, by the UK minister for intellectual property, Baroness Neville Rolfe, in a meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council in Brussels. This announcement ended months of uncertainties regarding the UP and UPC framework and it now seems likely to come into effect in 2017.
The ratification will require legislation by the UK Parliament. There is still a longer term question as to the nature of the UK’s participation in the system, in the post-Brexit era, if the UK will indeed continue on its Brexit trajectory. One needs to bear in mind that London is one of three seats of the UPC's Central Division.
A total of 11 countries, including France, have already ratified the UPC Agreement and now with the expected ratification by the UK, the ball goes into Germany's court. With the expected ratification by Germany in the near future, there are good reasons to hope that the UP and UPC frameworks will become a reality during 2017.
This will be very welcome news for patent owners, as it will considerably reduce the costs for obtaining patent protection throughout the EU as well as dramatically influence ability to enforce patent rights in Europe.