The EPO has published a press release on a meeting on 10 January 2020 to review the status of preparations to implement the “Unitary Patent package”, i.e. the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC). This was in light of the news last November that the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG) may decide the complaint against the UPC legislation early this year. The meeting was attended by the EPO President and his team, the Chair of the EPO’s Unitary Patent Select Committee, and the Chair and members of the executive group of the UPC Preparatory Committee (representatives from EU member states). It was clear that the EPO is ready to register the first unitary patents, and that the preparatory work for the UPC was complete as far as possible (with the remaining work only possible once the Provisional Application Phase has started, which requires Germany to ratify the UPC Agreement – see here and here).
Although the EPO’s report of the meeting refers to hope that the BVerfG’s decision will allow Germany to ratify the UPC Agreement and calls for the speedy implementation of the UPC system, it does not refer to the potential effect of Brexit on the system. The UK government’s press release of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s meeting on 8 January 2020 with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has raised the question of whether the UK government will continue its commitment to the UPC project. Some commentators have expressed the view that is unlikely, the press release stating: “The PM was clear that…….any future partnership must not involve any kind of alignment or ECJ jurisdiction.” However, after the Brexit referendum vote, Prime Minister Theresa May also spoke about bringing an end to the ECJ’s jurisdiction yet shortly afterwards the government committed to continuing with the process for the UK’s ratification of the UPC Agreement, Parliament passed all the necessary legislation and Mr Johnson (as Foreign Secretary) signed the instrument of ratification in April 2018. (The article A seat at the table looks at various scenarios for the UPC system after Brexit and the legal issues.)