On 14 December, the UK signed the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the Unified Patent Court. Amongst other matters, the Protocol provides EU privileges and immunities to the judges of the Unified Patent Court in those countries hosting divisions of the court. This move follows quickly after the UK’s announcement on 28 November that it will ratify the UPC Agreement, which is necessary for the court and the Unitary Patent to come into existence.

It is understood that the UKIPO is working to a timetable in which orders of ratification for the UPC Agreement and the Protocol will be presented to Parliament for approval in February/March, leading to ratification of both instruments shortly afterwards. As soon as the German ratification is deposited, if not before the UK, the provisional period of the UPC will begin. Parties can begin to opt-out European patents from the UPC system during this period.

The UPC and the Unitary Patent will start receiving cases on the first day of the fourth month after the final ratification. According to the above timetable this could be as early as Autumn 2017, although it is unclear whether other processes, such as recruitment of judges and other staff, as well as preparation of court buildings and IT systems, will be ready by this time. Consequently, it is expected that the German ratification will be used to control the provisional period and go-live dates until the court is fully ready.