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Confirmed: UK to shun unitary patent and UPC

The government says that UPC membership and CJEU oversight would be inconsistent with its objective of being a self-governing nation


The UK will not participate in the proposed Unified Patent Court and unitary patent system, a spokesperson for the prime minister has confirmed.

In a statement last night, February 27, a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said: “The UK will not be seeking involvement in the UP/UPC system. Participating in a court that applies EU law and is bound by the CJEU is clearly inconsistent with our objective of becoming an independent self-governing nation.”

The government’s confirmation ends speculation over whether the UK could have participated in the system post-Brexit.

The government’s line was previously that the UPC was “not an EU institution” and that the UK would play a part in the system.

In fact, just five months ago, Tim Moss, chief executive of the UKIPO, told Managing IP: “We believe the UK can continue to play a full role after Brexit and intend to explore continued participation in the unitary patent system and the UPC with our European partners.”  

However, the government’s stance has toughened since the general election on December 12 last year in which the Conservative Party won an 80-seat majority. 

Uncertainty about the UK’s involvement was not the only stumbling block holding the project back.

A constitutional challenge at the German Federal Constitutional Court is set to be decided in the first quarter of 2020, according to the judge in charge of the matter in an exclusive interview with Managing IP. If that ruling goes against the UPC then the entire project will be in serious doubt, if it isn’t already.

Should the UPC come into being, a key question will be whether it is still an attractive proposition without the UK. A survey of in-house counsel conducted by Managing IP last year suggested it would be.

To view our recent coverage on the UPC, click on the links below:

UPC case to be decided in early 2020

UPC report creates ‘point of legal difficulty’ for UK membership

UPC: businesses still on hold despite judge Huber announcement

Avoiding the cliff edge: UKIPO’s Brexit preparations

UKIPO: UPC before Brexit ‘no longer possible’

Survey: UPC still attractive without UK


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