In a move that, to many, came somewhat out of the blue, the UK government yesterday announced that they had ratified the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court. This means that we are just waiting for German ratification, and then the Unified Patent Court, and with it the granting of Unitary Patents across Europe, can begin.
Before the European Patent Office can grant the first Unitary Patent, the Unified Patent Court needs to be established. In turn, the Unified Patent Court cannot come into being until certain ratification requirements of the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court have been met. The requirements are that at least 13 countries must ratify the Agreement, and that the UK, France and Germany must have each ratified the Agreement. France, and 14 other countries have already ratified the Agreement, and so the UK ratification means that only German ratification is now required. Once Germany has ratified, the Agreement will come into force within about 4 months, and patent owners and others will be able to bring actions, for example to challenge validity and infringement, before the new Court. At that time, it will also be possible for patents being newly granted by the EPO to become Patents with unitary effect, covering at least 17 European countries as an alternative to the current national validations of European patents.
However, it is still likely that the Unitary Patent Court will not open its doors before the end of 2018. As we reported in June 2017, Germany is currently not in a position to ratify the Agreement as there is an outstanding complaint before the German Federal Constitutional Court. This case is not expected to be heard until later in 2018, and therefore German ratification cannot be expected for some time yet.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.