Just as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation went into effect Friday with implications for U.S. businesses, a European Union development in patent law with implications for companies here, which has also been in the works for several years, had an important symbolic milestone late in April. The U.K. has ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement, a system to create a single patent court with jurisdiction over all the EU’s participating countries.
The system also includes a proposed Unitary Patent to allow patent owners to hold one patent enforceable throughout the EU.
Currently, a central European Patent Office — which is independent of the EU — validates patents, but a holder must pay separate fees to validate the patent in each country. Patent attorneys in the U.S. and overseas say the U.K.’s ratification is a significant political indicator of the region’s commitment to participating.
But The UPC Agreement is on the clock, because two impending, intertwined events complicate its effectuation: a German constitutional challenge to the unified court, and Brexit, set to take effect at the end of March 2019.