UK House of Commons committee approves UPC Order
The legislative committee of the House of Commons has approved the Order on Immunities and Privileges of the Unified Patent Court on the 29th of November. The approval of the Order is one of the last legislative steps required that would make ratification possible.
The Order deals with the legal status of the Unified Patent Court and provides the necessary privileges and immunities to the court, its staff and judges.
The matter was discussed by the House of Commons’ Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee, a standard stept wherein the relevant minister (Jo Johnson, responsible for IP) explains the Order and answers questions from other MPs.
The entire video of the debate by the legislative committee can be watched here:
With the passing of the Order by the committee, the UK seems one step closer to ratification. The Order still needs to be officially approved by the House of Commons and go past the House of Lords and the Privy Council.
It is not yet clear when the House of Commons will give its formal approval, but this is a procedural step without debate. The House of Lords will discuss the Order on the 6th of December. Also this should then be followed by an official approval without debate.
Lastly, after everyone has formally approved, the Order (together with its Scottish counterpart) will come before the Privy Council for the absolute final stamp of approval. It is estimated that this is to take place in early 2018.
Ratification around the corner?
After completing the before mentioned steps, the UK is in a position to ratify the UPC Agreement. Which, however, does not necessarily mean that the UK is smoothly heading towards ratification.
The most obvious obstacle is the Brexit and the consideration of how to fit this EU-orientated project within the complex Brexit negotiations and the eventual Brexit in 2019. Even if the UK would want to ratify before that, the whole UP project is currently being stagnated by a pending claim in Germany. A decisions by the German Court made after 2019, will complicate the UK’s participation in the Unified Patent Court.
In addition, even though MP Johnson stressed the importance of the UP and its court for the UK, he did not actually state that the UK is intending to ratify. Instead he said that the government wants to ‘put itself in a position to enable the UPC to come into existence’. A vagueness that, according to some, leaves room for opting out in the future if this is required due to Brexit developments.