On November 28, 2016, the UK Government announced that it intends to ratify the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement. The Agreement will create a pan-European patent enforcement zone for patents issued by the European Patent Office (EPO). This differs from the current system that requires patentees to go through national validation of their EPO patent grant in each country and then bring individual enforcement actions in each European country.
Brexit created concerns that the UPC Agreement would not be ratified because the UK is a necessary party to the UPC agreement together with France and Germany. However, the UK Government’s announcement has buoyed expectations that the UPC Agreement will be ratified. France and 11 other countries have already ratified the Agreement, and Germany is also expected to ratify.
It is noteworthy that ratification of the UPC Agreement and the Unitary Patent entails recognising the supremacy of a supranational court with the power to refer questions of law to the Court of Justice of the European Union. This appears to be at odds with the current Brexit movement in the UK and raises questions as to whether the UK will be able to remain a member of the UPC system after Brexit. We will provide further updates over the coming months as more information becomes available.