Following the Brexit vote last June progress on bringing the unitary patent system into operation ground to a halt. The last few weeks however have seen a resumption of activities which was confirmed last week when the Unfied Patent Court Preparatory Committee website posted a new timetable for the UPC Agreement to come into force and the Court to open.
All things being equal the Preparatory Committee sees the Court becoming operational in December 2017. Keeping its end of the bargain, for now, the UK also took the next step in its own ratification process.
The graphic below shows the new timeline. The UPC Prep Committee notes that this timeline is conditional and subject to a number of outside factors that could change things.
In the timeline above the Provisional Application Phase is the period during which the court structures will be established as such and matters such as judicial interviews can begin.
The sunrise period during which European patents and patent applications can be opted out of the competence of the UPC will run for a minimum of 3 months from early September 2017.
Two countries, Germany and the UK, are needed to ratify the UPC in order for the above dates to be met. The remaining steps in the UK’s ratification process are detailed in our earlier post and on Friday last week the UK’s UPC Taskforce confirmed that the next of these had taken place when the Privileges and Immunities Protocol was laid in Parliament. The Protocol must sit for at least 21 days in Parliament and further legislation (a Statutory Instrument) is needed as part of the ratification process.
A copy of the Protocol can be found here : https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-no12017-protocol-on-privileges-and-immunities-of-the-unified-patent-court
If the timeline holds then come the end of the year the Unified Patent Court will be operational and the EPO will be granting unitary patents. Time to dust off your sunrise and unitary patent policies!
Mark Richardson 24 January 2017