On World Intellectual Property Day (26 April 2018), the UK government confirmed that it had taken the positive step of ratifying the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA). This latest development, which underlines the UK's commitment to robust intellectual property protection, has been welcomed by several bodies, including the BioIndustry Association and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys.
Following ratification, implementation of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and Unitary Patent (UP) system - a system being heralded as having the potential to revolutionise the landscape of patent protection and enforcement in Europe – is one step nearer. Along with the potential benefit to life sciences companies of cost-savings in obtaining and enforcing patents across Europe, in a more streamlined system, it is also particularly exciting that the Central Division of the UPC with responsibility for life sciences cases is due to be based in London. This should support investment in life sciences in the UK.
Whilst teetering on the brink of such an exciting change, some challenges remain. Ratification by Germany is now required before the system can come into effect. However, this has been delayed pending determination of a challenge before the German Federal Constitutional Court - a situation which has added to the complexity of the analysis as to what will happen when the UK leaves the EU and if, how, and to what extent, the UK will continue to participate in the new system.
Despite these challenges, being one step nearer to implementation means that there are various issues which companies should be taking into account now in reviewing their patent filing and enforcement strategies, including considering if any European patents are candidates for being 'opted-out' of the system, and in reviewing and negotiating licences. The team at Fieldfisher are well placed to help any companies getting to grips with these issues.