Following the result of last month's UK referendum to leave
the EU, the Unified Patent Court's (UPC) Preparatory Committee
has said that preparation for the regime will continue as
Acknowledging that the shock 51.9 - 48.1 vote in favour of quitting the
union gave "rise to questions concerning the future" of
the UPC and unitary patent protection, the committee issued a
communication on the next steps following Brexit.
Stating that the work of the committee and the Select Committee
is "far advanced and expected to be completed before the end
of the year", chairman Alexander Ramsay explained that it is
"too early to assess what the impact of this vote on the UPC
and the UP eventually could be".
However, he added progress of the programme, which will see a
single patent covering 25 member states, largely depends on
political decisions to be taken in the course of the next
"It has to be recalled that for the time being the UK
remains a member state of the European Union and a signatory state
of the UPC Agreement," he said.
The chair furthered that the committee endorsed 'more
clarity' regarding different possible scenarios to the
technical implementation which "should continue to progress as
envisaged, in accordance with the mandate of the
This is "in line with the clear wish of the user
community" to bring the UPC and the UP into operation as soon
as possible, the chair concluded.
The committee's next meeting has been scheduled for early
The UPC Agreement was signed by 27 EU member states, except for
Spain and Italy, in February 2013.
It aims to grant pan-European unitary patents that will bestow
uniform protection in all contracting member states and will be
enforced under the exclusive jurisdiction of the UPC.
The regime includes three Central Division Courts - Germany,
France and the UK - but due to Britain's departure it is
thought either Italy or The Netherlands will take over.
"But despite the vote to leave, we are still in the EU
today, and will remain in the EU for at least two years after we
give notice of intention to leave, which it now seems may well not
be until October. That two year period can be extended by agreement
of all 28 states," he explained.
He stated that it is 'theoretically possible' that the
UK could, while still an EU member, ratify the UPC, enabling it to
open in 2017.
"It is even possible that the London branch of the Central
Division could open its doors, but that all seems politically
highly unlikely. If the UK takes no further part the other
countries could negotiate an amended agreement, which will require
agreement on the location of the work which had been destined for
the London branch," Westmacott commented.
Nick Cunningham explained that if the history in this area is
anything to go by, such an agreement "could take some time and
the political will to implement the system in the rest of Europe
may begin to wane".
He added, "Consequently, the UK's leave vote at best
will delay implementation of the UPC system for the rest of Europe
and at worst could result in the project foundering at this late
stage. Whether the UK will address this by ratifying the Agreement
and, if necessary, seeking a way to remain involved in the UPC and
UP system in the circumstances of an eventual Brexit, remains to be
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