As we have reported previously, it had been thought that the UK's vote on June 23, 2016 to leave the European Union would delay the commencement of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and the introduction of the unitary patent. Some had even questioned whether the UPC and unitary patent would survive at all. The reason is that, in order for the UPC to commence, and for unitary patents to be granted, the Unified Patent Court Agreement must be ratified by 13 countries, including at least the UK, France and Germany. It was thought that the UK would either be unwilling to ratify the agreement in light of the referendum result, or else that the ratification would feature as part of the wider exit negotiations, and so be delayed. However, on November 28, 2016, the UK Minister of State for Intellectual Property announced at the EU Competitiveness Council that the UK will ratify the UPC Agreement. Although the ratification by the UK Parliament may encounter some resistance from certain Members of Parliament, it is expected to pass. This means that the UPC will now commence, and the first unitary patents will be granted, in 2017.
In light of the opt-out sunrise period probably commencing in the first half of 2017, we advise that you formulate your strategy as to which European patents and applications to opt out, if you have not already done so.
Please download the PDF below to read our more detailed note about this news, which also discusses opt-out strategy.