The UPC Preparatory Committee has posted the news here that the UPC is expected to open in December. Since Article 89 of the UPC Agreement provides for the opening of the court on the first day of a month, the target opening date is presumed to be 1 December.
With UK ratification expected in April, and Germany expected to be able to confirm its intention to do likewise, the UPC “Provisional Application Phase” can begin in May. This phase, the result of a Protocol to the UPC signed on 1 October 2015, allows various parts of the UPC Agreement to come into force early.
The Provisional Application Phase will mean the hand-over of preparations from the Preparatory Committee (which will have its final meeting in early March) to UPC committees which can, for example, interview and recruit judges and other personnel.
The Provisional Application Phase will also include a “sunrise period” for accepting opt-outs for existing European patents and applications. This sunrise period will, however, not start until about September, allowing further time for the IT system to be refined before this on-line system is available to users, but still allowing users three months to file opt-outs prior to the system going live.
As well as the UPC opening, 1 December will also see the EPO able to issue unitary patents for newly granting European patents. Hence in the next 10 months users must address their policies not only for opting out (or not) their existing patent portfolio, but also their future patenting policy.