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09 March 2020

UK opts out of Unified Patent Court regime

The UK will not be participating in the proposed Unified Patent Court (UPC) regime, despite the country’s ratification of the underlying agreement in April 2018. 

The UK’s participation in the UPC, which was put in doubt by its exit from the EU, would have required it to accept being bound by certain EU laws and decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The UK Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the UK’s position concerning the UPC following the publication of its position paper titled The Future Relationship with the EU. Read more on this here.

The commencement of the UPC is currently delayed by a challenge being heard by the German constitutional courts. A decision from the court on whether the UPC is compatible with the German constitution is expected sometime this year.

If the German court finds against the complaint, and Germany decides to ratify the UPC agreement, the UPC may still proceed without the UK. Changes will be required to the current UPC agreement, as under its terms the UK was due to host a section of the central division of the UPC, with responsibility for cases in relation to human necessities (including pharmaceuticals), chemistry and metallurgy. It is likely, however, that one of the other countries that has indicated their intention to participate, such as Italy or the Netherlands, will be prepared to fill this role.

The UK continues to be a contracting state to the European Patent Convention (EPC), which oversees the examination and grant of European Patent applications. The EPC is entirely separate from the European Union and has approximately 40 contracting states. These include all the EU countries but also many non-EU ones.

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