Despite the lingering uncertainty caused by Brexit, the UK is inching closer to ratifying the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement. In December, the draft legislation was heard in the House of Lords and, following that reading, the ratification process has moved quickly. On 8 February the Privy Council approved the final piece of domestic legislation which is required for the UPC to be adapted into UK law: the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities. There is still a degree of confusion over the UK’s ratification, however, as it is currently not known whether the government will now move to ratify the UPCA immediately following the approval process.

As with all current regulatory and legislative developments in the UK at the moment, there are myriad political factors to consider. Brexit casts a long shadow and, as such, it will continue to have an important impact on patent protection across the European bloc for the foreseeable future, even once the UK has left the EU. The question of how a non-EU jurisdiction will function as part of the new unitary and European patent enforcement system remains to be seen, particularly given the scale of change it presents.

Features of the UPC

The UPC and Unitary Patent system promise a single patent right, which will be enforceable in up to 25 participating EU Member States. The new system represents a considerable change to the status quo; indeed, it is the biggest change to patent law in Europe for 40 years. Member States will be subject to a single approach to patent registration and litigation. As such, all businesses within those Member States must ensure they understand the changes and are prepared for implementation.

Apr-Jun 2018 issue

Richard Summerfield