The UK’s support for the UPC looks suspiciously like a stalling tactic

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Earlier this week, The United Kingdom announced it intends to ratify plans for a single European patent system, marking its first commitment to a new EU initiative since the Brexit referendum in June.

The single patent system is intended to protect inventions across the EU and includes the creation of a Unified Patent Court. It goes without saying that GEVERS, as a firm advising companies worldwide on their IP matters, is a firm believer in the merits of a unified patent system that makes it more efficient for our clients to file, protect and defend their patents in order to avoid debate on “is it really cheaper?” and “is it really easier?".

So at first sight, the UK’s announcement that it intends to ratify the European patent system seems like good news. It could mean that the new system of European patent protection will move forward with implementation without a delay of several years, as had been predicted following the Brexit referendum.

But in reality, the UK’s announcement is not entirely clear and even ambiguous. In fact, it looks suspiciously like a stalling tactic.

One of the three (lucrative) seats of the Unified Patent Court was earmarked for London. In the wake of Brexit, we’ve already heard talk of moving it to Italy. By announcing its support for the European patent system - without a firm commitment to ratify the treaty, the UK managed to prevent other member states from making a pre-emptive decision to move the UPC seat.

After yesterday’s announcement, we’re now in a holding pattern. And one has to wonder if that wasn’t the whole point of the announcement: to create confusion  and delay.

This uncertainty is exactly what the new UPC system can do without. Already, there are doubts about the tangible savings and benefits of the UPC, as well as questions about the UPC’s judicial process. The UK’s ambiguous announcement yesterday further complicates things. It would have been preferable for the UK to formulate its position clearly and unequivocally. That would allow us to start the UPC as soon as possible and allow the European economy to enjoy the benefits of the new system.

Picture: the Aldgate Tower, proposed seat of the UPC in London
Matt Brown, creative commons via Flickr