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The UK will ratify the UPCA!

28 November 2016

At the EU competitiveness council meeting today the UK Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, indicated that the UK will ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement (see official press release here).

UPC specialist and W&R Partner Russell Barton said:

“We, at Withers & Rogers, are delighted the UK government has chosen to proceed with ratifying the Unified Patent Court Agreement and to keep the UK within the new structure. This is a bold decision which will allow the UPC to proceed in the near future.

The UPC will open up access to pan-European patent litigation to SMEs, which is great news for the UK’s innovative SME sector. By pressing ahead now with the UK involved in the UPC system, the London life sciences branch of the Court will also be safeguarded, even after Brexit.

The involvement of  the UK’s legal culture and UK patent judges, with their emphasis on evidence and commerce will benefit the whole system and should help guide the new court to become the most effective and just venue for patent disputes.

We commend the work that has been, and is being, done to find the best way to allow for the UK to be inside the UPC when outside the EU. This situation was made possible due to the earlier hard and careful work of, negotiators who ensured that the big issues in patent law would be decided by the UPC’s specialist patent judges and that the involvement of generalist judges at the ECJ was kept to a minimum.”

The Unified Patent Court is a single court system in which patent matters can be heard for multiple European counties simultaneously. The Unified Patent Court will have exclusive jurisdiction over new “Unitary Patents” and, after seven years, over traditional European patents in participating countries.  A “European Patents with unitary effect”, or “Unitary Patent” for short, is a single patent which will cover multiple European countries.

In order for the UPC and Unitary Patent to enter force, ratifications of the UPCA by at least thirteen countries are required, but these must include the UK, France and Germany. Eleven countries (including France) have already ratified. Prior to the recent EU Referendum, the UK was expected to ratify the UPC Agreement in the summer, with Germany being the final state to ratify. However, given the uncertainty created by the result of the Referendum, it had become unclear as to how the implementation of the UPC would or could proceed. Today’s announcement removes that uncertainty and it now seems very likely that the UPC will be up and running in 2017.


If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing, please contact Russell Barton (; +44 207 940 3600) or your usual contact at the firm. This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Withers & Rogers LLP, November 2016