The European Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC) have moved closer to realisation in the last few weeks, and it is now anticipated that the UPC will open its doors at the start of 2017.
The Protocol on the Provisional Application of the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court was signed on 1 October 2015 to enable certain parts of the UPC to come into effect early. In particular, certain legal and practical arrangements will be brought forward, such as the appointment of judges. The Protocol will also be used to allow for early registration of opt-out demands, whereby patentees having non-Unitary European patents will be able to opt out of the UPC on payment of a small fee for each patent.
In addition, Italy’s intention to support the European Unitary Patent was formalised on 30 September 2015, making Italy the 26th country to join the Unitary Patent. This news has been widely welcomed as Italy is the fourth biggest market in Europe in terms of patent validation, after the UK, Germany and France.
Notably, Italy’s participation leaves Spain as the sole EU country currently refusing to support either the Unitary Patent or the UPC. Poland is another slightly unusual case – it has currently signed up to the Unitary Patent, but it remains to be seen whether this will have any real effect as it has not yet signed up to the UPC. In any case, the Unitary Patent and the UPC look set to become a practical reality within the foreseeable future with the support of the vast majority of the EU.