Six months from the Brexit, which highlighted the UK’s decision to leave the EU, Great Britain has surprisingly announced the intention to ratify the introduction of the Unitary Patent, which could be seen as a sign of integration towards the EU Member States.
On 29th November 2016, UK claimed to be firmly resolved to join a patent system valid for all legal purposes throughout the EU.
Great Britain’s decision only in appearance seems to be against their motion to not be part of the European Union. In fact, the Unitary Patent is an intergovernmental treaty between the participating States and it is not enacted by the European Union. Thus, for the British Government, the management of the new system would not be in conflict with the negotiations following the Brexit.
Currently, the European Patent is only a "bundle" of National Patents, granted via a unified procedure before the European Patent Office (EPO) that is subsequently validated in each State in which the Proprietors wish to extend the protection. For the protection to be effective, the granted patent needs to be validated, namely be translated in the official languages of the countries where the protection is requested, based on the national legislations. On the contrary, the Unitary Patent aims to have unitary and independent effect for the entire territory of the Member States.
The Unitary Patent scheme also entails the establishment of the Unified Patent Court (UPC), which will be a court common to the Contracting Member States and thus part of their judicial system. It will have exclusive competence in respect of European Patents and European Patents with unitary effect (the Unitary Patent will in fact co-exist and not replace the current European Patent system, allowing Proprietors to choose the preferred system in accordance to their strategic and economic needs).
London has also announced its intention to host the division of The Unified Patent Court that will hear disputes relating to Pharmaceutical and Life Science Patents. The Court would be housed in the recently constructed Aldgate Tower.
This is bad news for Italy. After the Brexit, Milan had very high chances to have been recognised as the third host for the first-degree division of The Unified Patent Court considering that Italy, after Great Britain, counts the largest number of patents at Community level.
In any case, the UPC has to be ratified by al least 13 countries: France, Germany and UK included. 12 countries have so far ratified the Unitary Patent system and, if the ratification of the UK and Germany will follow, the Unitary Patent system could be launched as early as the first half of 2017.