Today on the 28th of November, the UK government confirmed it will proceed with its preparations to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement.
On the 11th of December 2012 the European Parliament accepted the draft EU regulation on a unitary patent for Europe. 26 out of the 28 EU member states, Spain and Croatia excluded, have indicated to join this enhanced co-operation in creating unitary patent protection.
This unitary patent will give users another patent option next to the already existing national patents and European patents. The unitary patent will be an EU patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) under the provisions of the European Patent convention, and thus be effective in the territories of the 26 participating member states.
Unified Patent Court
The participating member states have signed the Unified Patent Court Agreement in 2013. In the future, court proceedings on patent disputes can be dealt with in one single court for the whole of Europe: The Unified Patent Court (UPC). The judgment of the UPC on infringements on, or the annulment of, patents will apply in all 26 member states of the EU.
The UPC will enter into force when at least 13 member states (including at least Germany, France and the UK) have ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement.
The unitary patent is available from the moment the UPC is established.
Ratification by the UK
Before the EU referendum in the UK (“Bremain or Brexit”) it was expected that the minimum of 13 member states that had to ratify would be reached at the end of 2016, so that the unitary patent system could start four months later for the participating countries, at the beginning of 2017.
When the results of the EU referendum were final, and it was clear that the UK had opted for a Brexit, the question arose whether the UK would still ratify the agreement on the UPC and therefore the unitary patent.
This question has been answered today. The UK government has confirmed it will continue the ratification process for the Unified Patent Court Agreement, therefore taking any doubts away as to whether the UPC and unitary patent would still see daylight.
The UK Minister of State for Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville Rolfe expressed that this new patent system will provide UK businesses with protection for their inventions across Europe. He also emphasized that, as long the UK is still a member of the European Union, it will continue to play an active role in pursuing the best agreements for UK and European businesses, thereby giving British and European companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market.
In the coming months the government of the UK will work together with the Preparatory Committee to bring the UPC into force as soon as possible.