The Unified Patent Court will definitely go ahead, providing a Europe-wide Unitary Patent and a one-stop-shop for enforcement within a year from now.
The United Kingdom announced during the meeting of the Competitiveness Council of the European Union that it is proceeding with the preparations to ratify the UPC Agreement, aimed at bringing the UPC into operation as soon as possible. This means that the UPC can open its doors for business by the end of 2017 and that it will in principle cover 25 countries, including the UK.
Until now 11 countries have ratified and 3 more, including Italy, have finalized their procedure for ratification. Once the UK and Germany have ratified, the Court will open for business three months later. However, there is going to be a period of provisional application prior to that, to enable the Administrative Committee to appoint the UPC judges and complete their education.
The UPC Preparatory Committee and the EPO Select Committee had informed the Competitiveness Council in its meeting of 29 September that the work for the implementation of the Unitary Patent was completed and the preparatory work for the UPC was almost finalized, meaning that the provisional application could start even this year. Court buildings have already been rented in various countries.
There are still a few changes which will be made to the Rules of Procedure and more work needs to be done on the online case management system, but all of this is progressing rapidly. The selection process for judges will now be completed and the judges will be appointed as soon as the provisional application period starts, which now will be in a few months. Judges can then start their training in UPC law (although some initial training has already taken place). In due course, some detailed thought will need to be given to what happens to the system on Brexit for example as regards ongoing proceedings and the UK's part of the Central Division and indeed what happens about any UK based Judges.
It is clear that the UPC will have divisions in at least twelve countries. Bird & Bird is very well positioned to represent companies in patent litigation in each of those divisions. This will be an important step in the protection of innovation in Europe, the UPC being a venue that will provide high quality and expedient judgments at the highest level.