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Last week ratification legislation for the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA) entered into force in Germany. This move follows years of delays caused by challenges to the UPCA in the German Federal Court.
On the face of it, the path to a functioning unitary patent system seems clear and a new operational start date of “around mid-2022” has been published by the UPC Preparatory Committee. However, a number of further steps and obstacles remain, some of which seem more than just formalities. (more…)
On 20 July 2020 the UK made a statement in Parliament that it had withdrawn its ratification of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. As noted on the Unified Patent Court website the UK also deposited a withdrawal notification with the Council Secretariat. The UPC Preparatory Committee has stated it will now discuss the consequences of the UK withdrawal and agree a way forward.
Given the UK Government’s view of the CJEU, the statement doesn’t come as a huge surprise though it will presumably be a disappointment for those UPC supporters who were holding out hope that the UK and the other participants would work out some way for the UK to stay in the system.
The UK’s withdrawal from the UPC is, of course, not the only issue to hit the unified patent court project this year as the German Constitutional Court found that the German ratification legislation was unconstitutional.
What comes next for the unitary patent project is unclear. While the system still has its supporters who continue to say that the system could go live as early as [Readers should insert today’s date plus 6-12 months] there are a number of matters that are unclear, namely:
- Is the UK’s withdrawal notification sufficient? The UPC Agreement does not have any withdrawal provisions but the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties does provide mechanisms for withdrawal from treaties with no withdrawal provisions. Whether the UK’s withdrawal is currently effective may be unclear however and may require amendment of the Protocol to the Agreement on the UPC on provisional application.
- Where will the London seat of the Central Division be relocated to? Although the provision governing when the UPC Agreement comes into effect does not mention the UK (see Article 89 UPCA), Article 7 which relates to the Court of First Instance does explicitly mention the UK and Annex II to the Agreement details the technical split in cases between London, Paris and Munich. Will the UPC Agreement require amendment to remove the references to London and, if not, will other interested countries (e.g. the Netherlands, Italy) be happy for the system to come into effect without first dealing with this issue?
- How attractive will the unitary patent system without the UK be for applicants? Also, will the renewal fees for the Unitary Patent need revising in light of the UK’s departure?
The UK announcement is the latest in a line of setbacks for the system. IPcopy remembers the pan-European Intellectual Property Summit way back in December 2012 where the keynote speech suggested that all the stops would be pulled out in order to allow the first unitary patent to be granted in Spring 2014(!) and yet here we are, some 6 years beyond that point, with no real end in sight for the ratification process.
Mark Richardson 8 September 2020
The unitary patent project and the Unified Patent Court have been limping along in recent years ever since the result of the UK referendum on EU membership and the filing of the German constitutional court challenge against the UPC legislation.
This blog has been less than positive (1, 2) about the prospect of either the UK staying in the system or even the outlook for the project as a whole and yesterday it became clear that, contrary to previous slightly more positive murmurings from the UK Government, the UK has now decided it will not be moving forward in the Unified Patent Court system. Despite the lack of an official announcement the news seemed to pop up online and in IPcopy’s messages from a number of different sources yesterday and IAM Magazine later reported that the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that the UK would not be participating in the UPC system. (more…)
The unitary patent system is aiming to create a European patent registration and litigation system. To bring the whole system into being, 13 EU member states, including France, Germany and the UK, need to ratify the UPC agreement and currently 16 member states (including France, the UK but crucially not Germany) have done so.
For some time, the unitary patent project has been stalled because an ongoing legal challenge in Germany has prevented Germany’s ratification process from being completed. In addition to this, the fallout from the UK’s Brexit vote has also cast a sense of uncertainty over the planned system because the unitary patent system is only, in its current form, open to EU member states to join. The UK’s expected departure from the EU therefore casts some doubt on whether the system will even take place.
In the face of the above two challenges however the UPC Preparatory Committee has continued to make technical and operational preparations in anticipation of a positive result from the German Constitutional Court.
Recently however the German Federal Ministry of Justice made a statement to the German Parliament indicating that an examination of the UK’s exit from the EU on the proposed unitary patent system will need to take place before ratification can occur. (more…)
The CIPA UP/UPC seminar series continued recently with “A practical perspective of the UP/UPC (from an in house perspective)” from Maja Schmitt, Head of Global Administration at DSM.
Maja presented a slightly different perspective on the unitary patent system and rather than focussing on the unitary patent/unified patent court rules or the intricacies of using the UPC’s case management system, Maja looked at the challenges of mobilising an in-house team into being ready for a system that could move from a state of “nearly ready” to “live” within the space of 6-8 months. (more…)
Brexit, the UK Government’s real time demonstration of how not to conduct an international negotiation, rumbles on. The last two weeks have seen a “collective” stance on a Brexit plan thrashed out at Chequers, the subsequent resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson who it seems weren’t quite ready to be part of May’s Collective, the visit of the US President who apparently suggested that the UK should sue the EU and, perhaps most tellingly of all, a sign on a broken toilet door in the Commons which not unreasonably asked “If we can’t fix a toilet in six weeks, what are our chances of negotiating Brexit in eight months? Just asking.” (I’m not joking. Picture at the bottom of this post!)
As well as all of the above and in amongst the usual chaos of knife edge votes in the Commons and a former Cabinet Minister asking for a second Referendum (surely if that happens we need best of three?), the UK Government published its White Paper on “The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union”. The White Paper mentions a little bit about IP so let’s dive in. (more…)
The CIPA seminar series relating to the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court resumed last week with the session “Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court for Attorneys”. This session, which was presented by Julia Gwilt, took a look at the ways in which the unitary patent system may impact the way that European Patent Attorneys will need to work.
The session provided a quick overview of the unitary patent system and then took a closer look at the procedure before the EPO (when requesting unitary effect) and the procedure before the Unified Patent Court (when requesting or withdrawing an opt-out).
We won’t cover the basics of the unitary patent system again here and readers wanting a quick recap of the system are invited to check out IPcopy’s report on the first CIPA seminar on this subject which can be found here. (more…)
On 26 April 2018, World IP Day, the UK surprised more than a few people by ratifying the UPC Agreement and in the process taking the total number of countries who have ratified the agreement to 16. The UK press release that accompanied this announcement stated “Our ratification brings the international court one step closer to reality”.
Since the ratification process only requires 13 member states, including France, Germany and the UK, to ratify then it might appear to some that German ratification is the only remaining obstacle to the unitary patent system going live.
However, IPcopy suggests that it is still too soon to be able to say if and when the system will come into force. (more…)
According to the website of the Council of the European Union (and just about every other official IP channel), the UK deposited its instrument of ratification (on 26 April 2018) to become the 16th country to complete its ratification formalities. The UK joins Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Italy, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Finland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Malta, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, France and Austria as one of the sixteen countries who have completed their ratification processes.
The unitary patent system requires 13 countries to ratify, including the UK, France and Germany. However, the German Constitutional Court challenge has thrown the timescale and the long term future of the unitary patent system into doubt.
There are now enough countries to have ratified the unified patent court agreement that the system will come into effect if Germany completes its own ratification procedures and sufficient approvals to the PPA are obtained.
Mark Richardson 27 April 2018
The UK has now completed all its legislative steps with respect to the UPC Agreement and UPC’s Protocol on Privileges and Immunities and is in a position to ratify the UPC Agreement. However, the potential timescale of the constitutional court challenge in Germany and the remaining ratification/implementation period means, in IPcopy’s view, that the UPC system will not come into force, at least in its current configuration. (more…)