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Relocation of London section of UPC central division after Brexit?

13 July 2017



Speaking at a preview of the next round of Brexit talks, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and Commissioner for Internal Market and Services in charge of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) dossier at the time of signature in 2013 of the UPC Agreement, said the EU is reviewing whether or not the London section of the central division of the UPC will need to be relocated when the UK leaves the EU.  (The court – already fully fitted out and ready for use – is in Aldgate Tower and will deal with cases in the chemical, pharmaceutical and life science sectors.)  Although the UK is intending to ratify the UPC Agreement (and all legislative steps to do so are almost complete) and last week it notified its consent to the start of the provisional application phase, it is currently unclear whether the UK will be able to continue to participate in the unitary patent and UPC system when it ceases to be an EU member state.  There is a broad consensus among industry groups in the UK and mainland Europe that strongly supports the UK’s continued participation in the project post-Brexit.  Further, an opinion of Richard Gordon QC has already concluded that there are no British or EU constitutional reasons why the UK should not continue its membership of the UPC post-Brexit:  membership is not dependent upon membership of the EU.  In addition, EPO President, Benoit Battistelli, has said “I’m convinced we’ll find a solution even if there is a hard Brexit and the UK leaves the single market”.