As reported here June 2014 was a busy month in terms of states ratifying the UPC agreement bringing the number of states ratifying the UPC agreement to 5 out of the required total number of 13.
So the big question for UPC observers remains – how likely is it that the UPC will become a reality in 2016?
Last month (September 2014) the Preparatory Committee of the UPC published an updated Roadmap. The Roadmap set out the issues to be resolved in five main areas: (i) Legal framework; (ii) Financial aspects; (iii) IT; (iv) Facilities; and (v) Human resources and training.
There are various target dates which are set out in the Roadmap but the date set furthest into the future concerns IT system development and testing which “is expected to be finalised during the last quarter of 2015”.
The UKIPO are responsible for developing an electronic filing and Case Management System for the UPC.
It is understood from correspondence with the UKIPO that a notice will be placed in the Official Journal of the European Union (“OJEU”) in November 2014 inviting suppliers to submit an expression of interest and to complete a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (“PQQ”) in respect of tendering for a contract to develop an UPC IT system.
In the meantime, a prototype e-Filing and Case Management System has been developed which can be accessed here – the prototype enables patent attorneys, IPlawyers and other interested parties to start testing the prototype UPC software. Testing of the prototype UPC software will also help inform the tender process.
At present the prototype e-Filing and Case Management System enables users to file a statement of case in respect of a test infringement action pursuant to R.13 of the draft Rules of Procedure of the UPC.
In other developments it is rumoured that the German Ministry of Justice is working on plans for Germany to ratify the UPC agreement at some point in 2015.
It also looks likely that the UK Government will remain on schedule to ratify the UPCagreement prior to the dissolution and prorogation of UK Parliament on 30 March 2015 in advance of the UK General Election which has been set for 7 May 2015.
Although it might appear ambitious, it nonetheless looks likely that the UPC infrastructure will be in place by the end of 2015. Furthermore, the UK and Germany also look set to ratify the UPC agreement in 2015.
Therefore, is seems that the most relevant factor affecting the start date of the UPC is whether or not 6 further states (in addition to the UK and Germany) are likely to ratify the UPC during the coming year.
As previously reported, it seems likely that Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta will ratify the UPC agreement bringing the total number of ratifications to 12 out of the required number of 13.
Therefore, an important factor will be if/when a 13th state such as Finland, Ireland or the Netherlands ratifies the UPC agreement.
In view of the fact that the UPC agreement was signed in February 2013 and many countries have a parliamentary process which enables ratification to take place within a matter of months, it remains reasonably likely that 8 further states (including the UK and Germany) will ratify the UPC agreement during the coming year and hence it seems reasonably likely that Unitary Patents and the UPC will finally become a reality at some point during 2016.