News & Insight
UK ratifies Unified Patent Court Agreement
t present, an inventor can protect their invention in Europe by filing national patents or by applying through the European Patent Office for a European patent. However, whilst a European patent is examined and granted centrally by the European Patent Office, it must be validated, maintained and enforced in each country where the proprietor wishes it to take effect.
Plans have been afoot for several years to create a European patent (still granted by the European Patent Office) with unitary effect in Member States of the EU.
Hand in hand with that, the Unified Patent Court Agreement provides for the setting up of a Unified Patent Court which will have jurisdiction to deal with European patents that cover EU Member States, i.e., those with unitary effect and those covering contracting EU Member States. The overall aim is to bring an end to costly litigation, diverging decisions from national courts of Member States and forum shopping.
The UK has been a leading proponent of the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court (with London down as hosting the pharmaceuticals/life sciences division) and announced its ratification of the Agreement on 26 April 2018 (whilst it is still a member of the EU).
That said, since the Unified Patent Court Agreement is presently only open to participating countries who are members of the EU, is governed by EU law and supervised by the EU Court of Justice, the rules will need amending to enable the UK to continue to participate after it leaves the EU.
Germany has yet to ratify the Agreement and the Agreement cannot come into effect until it does so. However, there is a legal challenge to the Agreement before the German courts so a delay is to be expected at least until later this year.
The unitary patent and Unified Patent Court system will undoubtedly assist inventors and companies/organisations in enforcing their patent rights across the EU but some political comprises may be necessary to achieve this.
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