Despite expectations among intellectual property experts that Britain would withdraw from the agreement due to its commitment to leave the EU, it will ratify plans for a single European patent system. This represents the UK’s first commitment to a new EU initiative since the highly publicised Brexit referendum in June. The single patent system was envisioned to protect inventions across the EU, with member states accepting the supremacy of EU law. Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, intellectual property minister, emphasised that the decision to ratify has no implications on the Brexit negotiations and it “should not be seen as pre-empting the UK’s objectives or position” in relation to the negotiations.
One of the most significant branches, the Unified Patent Court (UPC), which rules on patent disputes in pharmaceuticals and life sciences, will be located in Aldgate Tower in the City of London, for which the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has leased a space. The Court is an international patent court with a judiciary including UK judges; however, the system is currently open only to EU member states.
Numerous IP lawyers were surprised at this outcome having previously expected a decision to pull out of the UPC. Tony Rollins, president of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, told the Financial Times, “The decision is good for British business, particularly smaller companies, which will find it easier and cheaper to enforce their patent rights.” Indeed, the system will enable companies to defend their rights with a single patent and a single legal system across the EU. The UPC system has been under intensive development for many years. According to the UK IPO, it could generate approximately £200 million worth of business a year for the British legal system. This will not only benefit legal and IP firms in London but also the British industry generally.