The UK Government has announced its plan to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA), thus giving the first signal as to its intentions on this issue following the result of the referendum to leave the EU.
This marks a step towards the creation of a Unitary Patent for Europe and a Unified Patent Court. Once the UK has ratified the UPCA, only Germany’s ratification is needed for the agreement to come into effect.
It is important to note that the UPCA is exclusively concerned with procedures occurring at the grant stage of a European patent. There will be a choice for patent owners at the grant stage of a European patent, they will be able to choose to validate the granted EP patent in individual countries (as available now) OR to convert the EP patent into a Unified Patent. If the choice is for a Unified Patent then the patent owner can utilise a Unified Patent Court (UPC) for litigation. One of the branches of this court will be located in London.
If the EP national validation route is chosen then the national courts of the EP member states can be utilised. The system for examining and granting European patents will continue to be governed by the European Patent Convention, which is independent of the EU and whose signatories include both EU and non-EU member states such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The UK is a full member state of the European Patent Convention and will continue to be so whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Patents covering the UK will still be available under the European Patent system.
UK Minister of State for Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville Rolfe said in relation to the new announcement:
“The new system will provide an option for businesses that need to protect their inventions across Europe. The UK has been working with partners in Europe to develop this option.
As the Prime Minister has said, for as long as we are members of the EU, the UK will continue to play a full and active role. We will seek the best deal possible as we negotiate a new agreement with the European Union. We want that deal to reflect the kind of mature, cooperative relationship that close friends and allies enjoy. We want it to involve free trade, in goods and services. We want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market - and let European businesses do the same in the UK.
But the decision to proceed with ratification should not be seen as pre-empting the UK’s objectives or position in the forthcoming negotiations with the EU.
Following the announcement today, the UK will continue with preparations for ratification over the coming months. It will be working with the Preparatory Committee to bring the Unified Patent Court (UPC) into operation as soon as possible”.
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