The UK is one of three countries (the other two being France and Germany) whose ratification of the UPC Agreement is mandatory for the unitary patent system and the Court to come into effect. Following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, ratification of the UPC Agreement by the UK appeared to be an unlikely move. This has thrown the future of the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC) into doubt.
However, if a recent exchange in Parliament is taken at face value, it seems that UK ratification of the Agreement might not be off the table after all. In answer to a question about the Agreement, David Davis (the minister in charge of Brexit negotiations) suggested that ratification of the Agreement was an obligation for as long as the UK remains a member of the EU.
Although Mr Davis’ remarks fall short of an express confirmation that the UK will ratify the Agreement, they may nevertheless give some hope that the project will go ahead after all.
If the UK does ratify the Agreement, there are of course outstanding practical and legal questions as to whether it could continue to participate after formally leaving the EU, and whether London could retain its division of the Court (as reported here it appears that Milan, The Hague and Brussels are already lobbying to host the “London” division if it relocates). Nevertheless, an early entry into force of the system – with (at least temporary) UK membership – would be far simpler and greatly preferable to the alternatives.
Further news on the UPC, and the UK’s place within the system, will be reported as and when more information is available.