Brexit has caused uncertainty over the UK's participation in the proposed Unitary Patent system. The proposed system will provide a new Unitary Patent (UP) - a European patent with unitary effect across most EU states, and an associated new Unified Patent Court (UPC) to hear both UP and traditional European patent cases.
The UK's ratification of the UPC agreement earlier this year indicated that the UK did not wish to delay the new system, even though UK participation in the UPC after Brexit might not be possible.
The UK government published its White Paper on the future relationship with the EU on 12 July. This refers to the UPC, and indicates that the government is exploring continued participation in the UPC after Brexit.
The paper refers to the long history of European cooperation on patents, culminating in the agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) to provide businesses with "a streamlined process for enforcing patents through a single court, rather than through multiple courts".
The new system will provide radical new options for securing broad geographic protection and enforcement in Europe.
Whilst Brexit could present a major hurdle to introduction of the new Unitary Patent system, the UK's continued commitment to the new system is encouraging. It is now thought that the most significant remaining hurdle is a court challenge in Germany that questions whether German participation in the UPC is compatible with the German constitution. This court challenge is delaying German ratification of the necessary legislation, which is mandatory for the introduction of the new system.
For now at least, all eyes remain on Germany.
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