Further progress towards UPC ratification
In recent UPC developments, Germany, Italy and Lithuania have all now published draft legislation to implement the UPC Agreement, and Bulgaria has completed the legislative stage and simply needs to deposit its instrument of ratification.
Nine countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Sweden) have now fully ratified the agreement. The UK has concluded most of the necessary legislation to implement the UPC Agreement, with one further piece of legislation remaining to be finalised before the UK’s formal ratification of the Agreement can take place. This is now unlikely to occur until after the UK holds its referendum on continued membership of the European Union, which is scheduled for 23 June.
A total of 13 countries must ratify the UPC Agreement in order for the Unitary Patent system to enter into force. These 13 must include the UK, Germany and France. With the latest developments, 14 countries (including the essential states of the UK, Germany and France) have now completed (9) or begun (5) the necessary steps for ratification of the UPC Agreement. The race to become the crucial 10th to 13th ratifying states is therefore on. It is expected that Germany and the UK will delay formal ratification until all other preparations are complete.
Interestingly, the Lithuanian draft legislation envisages a 1 July 2017 implementation date in that country. This means that, depending on the timings of other countries’ ratifications, the Unitary Patent system could enter into force initially in the other 13 countries named above, with Lithuania joining a few months later. Additional countries beyond those 13 could also beat Lithuania to ratification before Germany and the UK.
Whichever shape the ratification pattern takes over the next few months, the procession towards the crucial 13-country milestone marches on, with an anticipated date some time in the first half of 2017 for the Unitary Patent system to “go live”. The biggest source of potential upsets to this schedule is the UK’s referendum on EU membership. Although the opinion polls are currently showing an almost 50-50 split in voting intentions, nearly all point to the UK voting to remain a member of the EU. Current betting odds also heavily favour a vote to remain. Should a vote for “Brexit” occur, this could delay the start date but would not necessarily be fatal to the Unitary Patent system, which could potentially proceed without UK membership.
To visit our dedicated UPC section, with Q&A, Guides and other UPC news, click HERE.
20 May 2016