The UK Intellectual Property Office has announced that it intends to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement to bring into being a single European patent and single patent court. It will work with the UPC Preparatory Committee to bring the system into effect as soon as possible.
IP minister, Baroness Neville Rolfe, emphasised cooperation with EU partners in this area, saying:
"for as long as we are members of the EU, the UK will continue to play a full and active role",
while recognising the difficulties that Brexit will present.
“It has always been the Committee's preferred option to move forward in a way which includes the UK and I am delighted to report that at today's Competitiveness Council in Brussels the UK indeed confirmed that it is proceeding with preparations to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA). This is much welcome news.”
The Unitary Patent project has been in doubt since the Brexit vote, but UK ratification is likely to lead to the system coming into effect next year. Ratification by Germany is also needed, although the process in Berlin is under way.
Because the UPC is an EU arrangement (unlike the European Patent Convention), it does not allow for membership for non-EU states. So how the system will work after Brexit will need to be negotiated.
Many users of the patent system around Europe have said they would prefer the UK to be part of the unitary patent and UPC, even after it leaves the EU. The whole purpose of the system is to make Europe a simpler place to register and enforce patents, and carving the UK out of that seriously diminishes the benefits it could offer. But it seems inevitable that membership will involve submission to the EU courts in some areas – not palatable for UK politicians trying to give effect to the will of the British electorate.