Preparatory Committee: ‘Still difficult to predict UPC timeline’

December 30, 2017

The Preparatory Committee of the Unified Patent Court has stated that it is still impossible to give a clear timeline for when all necessary countries will have ratified the UPC agreement and the Court can come into effect.

Alexander Ramsay, chair of the Preparatory Committee of the UPC, said this in an end of the year statement. The main reason for this, according to Ramsay, is the unexpected case pending in the German Federal Constitutional Court.

In that light, the future of the Unitary Patent seems a lot less certain at the end of 2017 than it did at the beginning of the year. At the start of 2017 the committee assessed that the final preparation phase of the Court (the provisional application) would start before the summer, now Ramsay can state nothing more specific than: ‘I am hopeful the New Year will bring closure to our endeavours and the Unified Patent Court will become a reality.’

Additional time
As the wait is for Germany (and the UK), Ramsay says the Committee uses the ‘additional time’ to prepare the functionality of the Court. The amount of preparation that can be done, if it has not been completed already, is limited however. Most last steps can only be completed once the provisional applications phase, the last phase before the Court is ready to operate, is entered. And this can only be entered once all necessary countries have ratified.

In this final phase, the Preparatory Committee will be replaced by the Administrative Committee, the Budget Committee and the Advisory Committee. After these have been established, six to eight more months would be needed to put everything into place for the Court to be operational.

One of the big drawbacks of the delay is the uncertainty when it comes to the judges which are to rule in the Unified Patent Court. Only in this last phase can the recruitment of judges be completed. As Ramsay puts it: ‘Once the judges are appointed the two Presidents can be elected, the Presidium can be set up and the Registrar and the Deputy Registrar can be appointed.’

Ramsay hopes 2018 will be the year that Court will become a reality. Recent analyses have, however, estimated that this case in Germany can take up to 2020. An amount of time which not only causes significant delays, but also threatens the (easy) participation of Great Britain in the UPC. As the Brexit will become official in 2019, it would be beneficial if the Court and the Unitary Patent have come into effect before that.