The European Commission has confirmed that France ratified the UPC Agreement on 14 March 2014. Although the French law authorising France to ratify the Agreement came into effect on 25 February 2014, in order to have effect under Article 89(1) UPC Agreement, it was necessary for the instrument of ratification to be deposited in Brussels with the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. France’s deposit of its instrument of ratification (only the second, with Austria having lodged its instrument of ratification in August 2013) is notable because France is one of the countries (together with Germany and the UK) which must ratify in order for the Agreement to come into force – four months after the final deposit of the relevant instruments of ratification. In many ways it is surprising that France has taken this step because it has thereby relinquished control of the date of entry into force of the UPC Agreement, and hence the date on which the UPC will open for business. This can now be controlled only by Germany and the UK as the other mandatory ratifying countries, and it is to be expected that even after ratification by these countries there may be a delay whilst practical arrangements are completed so that the Court is ready to open.
In the UK, draft legislation authorising ratification of the UPC Agreement is included in the IP Bill (with changes to other IP legislation unrelated to the UPC). The Bill has been progressing through Parliament, and today returns to the House of Lords in the so-called “Ping Pong” stage. If the House of Lords approves the amendments made in the House of Commons, the legislation will go forward to receive Royal Assent. It is then expected that the UK will ratify shortly before the next General Election in May 2015.
As regards Germany, a draft law authorising ratification is expected to be submitted after the summer.