What will happen to the Unified Patent Court (UPC) if the UK leaves the EU?

Would the planned referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the EU have any effect on the UPC Agreement?  If the UK votes to leave the EU, it must also leave the UPC although there is nothing to stop the new system continuing without the UK.  The UK Intellectual Property Office has moved to address speculation by releasing the following statement:

 

“The Government is committed to this project and wants the UK to be part of a European patent system that supports growth and fosters innovation.  The Prime Minister was personally involved in the negotiations on the Unitary Patent regulations and the UPC Agreement and the UK is taking an active role in the current work to implement the new system.  There is still work to be done before the UK can ratify the Agreement, and it is the Government’s intention for domestic preparations to be completed by Spring 2016”.

 

Questions still remain as to how much money the UK government would be prepared to invest in setting up the UK Divisions of the UPC before the planned referendum, or crucially when the Government intends to ratify the UPC Agreement.  A UPC without the UK would be less attractive to patentees and litigants, and also opens up a very large legal can of worms regarding whether the proposed London branch of the Central Division should be moved elsewhere, possibly to the Netherlands as the fourth biggest patent filing country in the EU.

 

Regardless of the UK’s participation, the new system will still offer cost savings for patent protection and litigation covering a geographical territory that is home to hundreds of millions of consumers.