The UK will not take part in the UPC

Brexit deal and UK participation to the UPC

The suspens is over:

The UK will not be a member of the UPC and will not deliver Unitary Patents.

The UK’s negotiating objectives, i.e its overall goals for the next phase of Brexit, published last week in fact declares:

It is a vision of a relationship based on friendly cooperation between sovereign equals, with both parties respecting one another’s legal autonomy and right to manage their own resources as they see fit. Whatever happens, the Government will not negotiate any arrangement in which the UK does not have control of its own laws and political life. That means that we will not agree to any obligations for our laws to be aligned with the EU’s, or for the EU’s institutions, including the Court of Justice, to have any jurisdiction in the UK.

Moreover, as reported by JUVE Patent « A press office for the Cabinet Office confirmed (…) « I can confirm that the UK will not be seeking involvement in the UP/UPC system. Participating in a court that applies EU law and bound by the CJEU is inconsistent with our aims of becoming an independent self-governing nation.”

Surprise..!

Although this does not come entirely as a surprise, the UK government had nonetheless sent encouraging messages regarding the country’s participation to the UPC system after Brexit.

Its successive IP ministers had issued statements reiterating their commitment to the court; surveys had showed an overwhelming support across all industries for the UK’s participation; and the UPC’s Central division in London had already been arranged. Last but not least, the UK gouvernement had ratified in 2018 the UPC Agreement as well as the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities. These were interpreted as strong signals of the UK’s continuing participation to the UPC.

On the other hand, the raison d’être of Brexit seemed to go directly against Opinion 1/09 of the CJEU, which makes clear that the UPC Agreement requires member states to respect the primacy of EU law as well as the jurisdiction of the CJEU.

Politics thus prevailed.

Reacting to the news Alexander Ramsay, head of the UPC Preparatory Committee declared « (e)ver since the Brexit referendum in 2016 we were aware that something like this could happen, so the decision of the UK government does not come as a total surprise.”

What about the UK’s ratification of the UPC Agreement?

The next step for the UK government is now to seek to rescind its ratification of the Unified Patent Court Agreement. However, as Ramsay explains, “(t)here are no provisions in the UPC agreement for the case of a member state that has ratified the agreement to drop out. It’s therefore very likely that the UK will have to launch a procedure under the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties.”

It will be interesting to see how the UK government intends to proceed.

What is the UPC next challenge?

The next challenge for the UPC is to move forward without the UK.

To be continued…