One of the last steps towards the establishment of a single patent court for Europe, and with it the entire unitary patent regime, was taken on 28 November 2016. The Agreement on the Unified Patent Court (UPC) will be ratified by the United Kingdom at the EU Competitiveness Council in Brussels.
Green Lights for a common (patent-) future: according to a statement by UK Minister for IP, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the UK signals green light to Unified Patent Court Agreement. Her clarification was welcomed by the European Commission, the EU Member States and the EPO and many in the IP community, following months of uncertainty after the UK voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016 (“Brexit”).
“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.”
The wait is over – EPO President feels relieved
“This important news from the UK government means that the long-awaited court is soon to be realised. Users, especially SMEs, have been waiting for the creation of a simpler patent system for Europe, and their relief is palpable.
The way is now clear for the last few ratifications to take place in the coming months, and the new court to start work soon after. The UPC will provide a single forum for all participating states delivering faster enforcement actions and harmonised judicial decisions.“, EPO President Benoît Battistelli said.
“EU Patent”: There is still work to do
Following the announcement, 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.
The new Unitary Patent regime can come into effect only when at least thirteen member states have ratified the Agreement on the UPC, including France, Germany and the UK. To date, eleven have done so, including France, with ratification procedures well advanced in Germany, the UK and also in Italy, Slovenia and Lithuania.
The EPO will grant Unitary Patents, making it easier to secure valuable patent rights in Europe, and provide significantly greater country coverage than is possible today for the same investment.
A single patent court covering 25 countries – about the Unified Patent Court
The Unified Patent Court (UPC) will be a court common to the Contracting Member States and thus part of their judicial system.
It will have exclusive competence in respect of European patents and European patents with unitary effect. The exclusive competence is however subject to exceptions during the transitional period. The UPC’s rulings will have effect in the territory of those Contracting Member States having ratified the UPC Agreement at the given time. The UPC will not have any competence with regard to national patents.
The UPC Agreement is open to accession by any Member State of the European Union. The Agreement is not open to states outside of the European Union.
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