The Agreement on establishing the Unified Patent Court (UPC) was signed in February 2013 and seeks to establish a unified patent court system across Europe to handle the enforcement of new EU Unitary Patents when they come into effect. A list of the countries who signed the agreement can be found here.
The Unified Patent Court will not have competence over national patent rights such as those granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office.
However, the Unified Patent Court will ultimately assume competence in relation to infringement and validity disputes in respect of regular (i.e. non-Unitary) European patents as currently granted by the European Patent Office.
In order for the Unified Patent Court system to become a reality it is necessary for 13 member states who signed the Agreement to take the subsequent step of ratifying the Agreement. It is also a requirement that the Agreement is ratified by the UK, France and Germany.
Austria became the first member state to ratify the Agreement by depositing its instrument of ratification in Brussels on 7 August 2013. A press release from the Austrian Foreign Ministry can be found here.
The UK and France are currently in the process of seeking to ratify the Agreement.
A new UK Intellectual Property Bill is currently before UK Parliament which includes a clause 16 which seeks to implement the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court.
The process of ratifying the Agreement in Germany is likely to be delayed until after elections on 22 September 2013.
The UK appears to be on schedule to ratify the Agreement around April/May 2015 and so the earliest that the Unified Patent Court could become a reality is late 2015. However, it is thought more likely that the Unified Patent Court will become a reality at some point during 2016.
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