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Johnson and Johnson provide path to UK’s ratification of the UPC Agreement

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IMG_8533Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, last week picked up responsibility for Intellectual Property (from Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe who has moved to a Treasury role). On Wednesday last week Mr Johnson appeared with Jenny Dibden (Director of Science & Research at BEIS) and Sean Dennehey (Acting CEO at UKIPO) at a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee session (video of the event can be found here).

The session was quite wide ranging with questions about the Government’s Industry Strategy Challenge fund, the state of innovation in the UK, the opportunities for collaboration between business and universities and the role of the UKIPO in assisting the public in protecting their inventions and IP.

The main event though, as far as IPcopy was concerned, was the exchange between Derek Thomas MP and Jo Johnson MP about the Unified Patent Court.

Derek Thomas started by referring to the statement made in the EU Competitiveness Council meeting back in November last year in which the UK said it would proceed with preparations to ratify the UPC Agreement. Asked about that statement Jo Johnson said that the UPC statement was correct and emphasised that the UPC is not an EU institution and that participation in the unitary patent system is independent of membership of the EU.

IPcopy picked up on an interesting (self-)correction in the language that Jo Johnson used at this juncture when discussing the UPC statement. At one point he said that the UK had decided to ratify the UPC Agreement before he immediately clarified himself to say that we’d taken the decision to proceed with preparations to ratify the UPCA.

This choice of language might mean nothing but given one of our earlier articles it did make me wonder just how far the UK will push the ratification process before the Brexit negotiations begin to bite. As a reminder, our earlier post here highlights the remaining actions for the UK to take before it can ratify. As of today’s date the secondary legislation mentioned in that post has not been advertised on the UK parliament website.

Derek Thomas continued by asking if the provisions of the UPCA allowed for non-EU members to participate. Jo Johnson indicated that an issue such as this would form part of the Brexit negotiations.

Further queries were raised as to whether the UK will potentially be going to all the trouble of setting up the London division of the UPC only to see it disappear in a couple of years and whether the UK will be entering the Brexit negotiations with the aim of staying in the unitary patent system.

On these points Jo Johnson noted that the UK has an interest in being part of the UPC and sees the benefits to the UK but location decisions will form part of the bigger package of Brexit negotiations. He also repeated his assertion that the UPC is outside EU institutions which left IPcopy wondering what type of institution he thinks the CJEU is (since questions of EU law can be referred to the CJEU under the UPC setup).

It will be interesting to see how the above issues develop as the UK moves towards Brexitageddon. Finally, IPcopy notes that if the UPC does launch this year it will down to the involvement of two members of the Johnson family as big brother Boris will need to sign off on ratification in his position as Foreign Secretary.

JoJo & BoJo are now controlling the UK’s path to the UPC…

Mark Richardson 17 January 2017

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