The UK IPO has confirmed that the government’s preparations for ratification of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement are “fully on track” to allow the provisional application phase to start in May and the Court to open in December 2017 (as per the Preparatory Committee’s timetable). This confirmation follows recent speculation about the UK’s UPC plans in the light of Brexit, because it had not ratified the UPC Agreement before it triggered Article 50 on 29 March. (The UK’s role in the UPC after Brexit in two years’ time is not yet clear and will form part of the Brexit negotiations.)
All the legislation required for the UK to ratify has been passed except for secondary legislation on privileges and immunities and this is expected to be laid in draft during the two weeks after Easter. The UK has already met the constitutional requirements to ratify the UPC’s Protocol on Privileges and Immunities (which will give legal personality to the Court and provide the Court and its judges, Registrar and other staff with the various privileges and immunities), a copy of the Protocol having been laid in the UK Parliament on 20 January 2017. However, the UK will be hosting a section of the Court’s central division and also a local division and, because the Court forms a separate jurisdiction to national court systems and is not part of the UK court system, secondary legislation (made under the International Organisations Act 1968) is required to give the Court legal personality in the UK and confer privileges and immunities on the Court and its staff (as per the Protocol). Once laid, this legislation will pass through the UK and Scottish parliaments.