The draft Unified Patent Court (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2017 (explanatory memorandum here), one of the two remaining pieces of draft legislation which must be passed before the UK can ratify the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement, was considered and approved yesterday by the House of Commons’ Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee. (Consideration by a Delegated Legislation Committee is standard under the affirmative procedure for a draft Statutory Instrument and is designed to require the responsible minister to explain, and, if necessary, defend the measure and allow MPs to ask questions or raise concerns and have those recorded, any MP being entitled to attend and speak.) In the meeting, Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation (whose responsibilities include intellectual property) moved the motion ‘That the Committee has considered the draft Unified Patent Court (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2017’. Mr Johnson then described the purpose of the Order (in summary, to give legal status to the Unified Patent Court and confer certain privileges and immunities on the Court, judges and its staff), and explained briefly importance of the UPC and its benefits to businesses, referring also to the UPC’s central division dealing with patents in pharmaceuticals and life sciences being in the UK. After comments and questions (with answers from Mr Johnson), the Committee agreed to that motion. A video of the meeting is available here. The Hansard report is available here.
The draft Order must be approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and then the Privy Council. Following approval by the Delegated Legislation Committee, the final step in the House of Commons is now formal approval: a motion to approve the draft Order will be put “forthwith” (i.e. without debate) on the floor of the House. The next step in the House of Lords is taking place next week, on 6 December, when the “Grand Committee” will debate the draft Order. The final step in the House of Lords will then be approval (with no debate) by the House. With those stages completed, the SI together with its Scottish equivalent (the draft International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Order 2017, which has already been approved by the Scottish Parliament) will be put before the Privy Council for final approval, possibly at the last meeting of 2017 scheduled for mid-December, but more probably at the first meeting of 2018 in January. After that the UK will be in a position to ratify the UPC Agreement.