In an announcement on the 26th April 2018, Minister for IP Sam Gyimah MP confirmed that the UK Government had ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement. This announcement coincided perfectly with World Intellectual Property Day 2018.
This news means that eyes will now turn to legal challenges against the proposals in Germany, who are yet to ratify the agreement. For the Unified Patent Court (UPC) to take effect, 13 European Union members must ratify the UPC Agreement. Three of those members must be France, Germany and the UK.
What is the Unified Patent Court?
The UPC is a proposed patent court common to all member states of the European Union, aiming to streamline and harmonize European patent systems. Whilst the European Patent Office is currently granting patent applications, upon grant it is necessary to request validation of the patent in individual countries in order for that patent to take effect and be enforceable that country. The UPC would enable a single patent to have effect in all member countries on grant, and patent rights to be enforced through the UPC itself. In addition, all existing national patents validated after European grant would also be subject to the jurisdiction of the UPC.
Member states? What about Brexit?
The timing of the ratification of the UPC agreement was a looming hurdle the UK faced in enabling the UPC to come into being. Had the UK’s not ratified before 29 March 2019, the date of leaving the European Union, things may have been very different. Nonetheless, if Germany ratifies the agreement the final role the UK will play in the UPC is still subject to Brexit negotiations. There is likely to be heavy debate regarding any required amendment of the agreement, with conflicting opinions on the future relationship between the UK and EU likely to have an effect.
The announcement however, has been welcomed by businesses and the IP sector at large, as a strong indication of the UK’s commitment to the unitary patent package.
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