The United Kingdom's Intellectual Property Minister Sam Gyimah announced on World IP day, 26 April 2018, the ratification by the UK of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement. The UPC agreement also implements the Unitary Patent, a single EU Patent that will be available to applicants via the European Patent Office. The UPC and Unified Patent offer many advantages to patent holders including reduction in translation and renewal costs and simplified and streamlined litigation.
Alexander Ramsay of Sweden, who chairs the UPC Preparatory Committee, is reported in the Financial Times to have said:
Some of the wording of the agreement will have to be amended after the UK leaves the EU but I would very much like Britain to participate in the UPC in the long term. The whole of Europe will benefit from the system having the broadest possible geographical coverage.
The UK is the 16th country to ratify the UPC Agreement, the others being Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. As the UK, France, Germany and 10 other countries must have ratified the Agreement for it to enter into force, only Germany’s ratification is now required. The Agreement will enter into force on the first day of the fourth month after Germany deposits its instrument of ratification.
Germany’s completion of the procedure is currently on hold due to a constitutional complaint that is expected to be heard by its courts later in 2018. Other countries, such as Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia, are close to completing the procedure. If the German courts dismiss the complaint by the summer, it is likely the UPC will open in early 2019.
As the European Patent Office (EPO) is not an EU body, UK-based European Patent Attorneys will continue their work at the EPO unaffected by Brexit. Currently, it is possible to file a European patent application at the European Patent Office (EPO), another non-EU organisation. If granted, this becomes a bundle of national patents validated and enforced in each country where protection was requested. The Unitary Patent will offer businesses a single route to patent protection which can be enforced in a single action before the Unified Patent Court.
The Unified Patent Court will be an international court and will have jurisdiction over patent disputes across its contracting states. It will deliver a single judgment in cross-border disputes between private parties over patents granted under the current intergovernmental system.
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