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UK Ratifies Unified Patent Court Agreement

Our Intellectual Property Minister Sam Gyimah announced yesterday (26th April 2018) that the UK has ratified the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement. The Minister made the announcement on World IP Day during an event at the House of Commons held by the Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN). In his announcement, he said:

The UK is overflowing with innovative businesses, with pockets of this innovation spread up and down the country. These businesses are the lifeblood of local economies by boosting income and creating jobs.

Ratification of this important Agreement demonstrates that internationally, as well as at home, the UK is committed to strong intellectual property protections. This will help to foster innovation and creativity, bringing our modern and ambitious Industrial Strategy to life.

However, as noted by the UK Government:

The unique nature of the proposed court means that the UK’s future relationship with the Unified Patent Court will be subject to negotiation with European partners as we leave the EU.”

Which could be interpreted as the UK’s future relationship with the Unitary Patent system still remains uncertain, in light of the country’s decision to leave the EU.

Nonetheless, the UK’s ratification of the agreement is a big step towards the Unitary Patent system finally beginning. Four countries must deposit instruments of ratification for the Protocol to come into force, and now the UK, France and Luxembourg have done so, only Germany remains. German parliament passed a draft law on 2 June 2017 enabling ratification, but the law received opposition in the German Federal Constitutional Court.  A hearing is scheduled for later in 2018.

Unitary Patents will make patent protection across EU Member States possible, from one single application to the EPO, in theory making the procedure simpler and more cost effective for Applicants. According to the European Patent Office’s own website the participating Member States are currently working under the assumption that the Unitary Patent will become operational during the course of 2018. The German Constitutional Court hearing now seems to be the only barrier to this.

TLIP is poised to advise clients about patent protection strategy once the UPC system comes into place. Please get in touch to Alex Turnbull on mail@tlip.co.uk for further information.