The UPC is dead (thanks to Germany’s constit. court), long live the UPC!

Germany's constitutional court

The German constitutional decision:

In March 2017 a lawyer asked Germany’s constitutional court to decide whether the German Parliament had passed the legislation ratifying the UPC Agreement with the appropriate quorum .

In March of this year the court, finally, ruled that the Bundestag should have passed the ratification bill with a two-thirds majority of all the German MPs. This quorum is in fact required whenever a piece of legislation substantially amends the German constitution. Instead, only 35 out of 709 MPs approved it.

The German constitutional court however considered that the UPC Agreement allowed the transfer of sovereign rights to a supranational court, the UPC. This therefore amounted to a constitutional amendment and required the legislation enabling the ratification of the UPC Agreement to be passed by the German parliament with a two-third majority of MPs.

This means that Germany must now pass, with the specified quorum, a new law allowing the ratification of the UPC Agreement. With the current worldwide health crisis this may not however be a priority for the German government.

So what now?

Germany’s ratification is necessary for the UPC to go ahead. According to JUVE Patents, the German Federal justice minister Christine Lambrecht announced soon after the German constitutional court published its decision that she “will continue (her) efforts to ensure that we can provide European innovative industry with a unitary European patent with a European Patent Court. The Federal Government will carefully evaluate the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court and examine possibilities to remedy the identified lack of form before the end of this legislative period.

Although the direction that will take the UPC is uncertain it seems that Germany’s political will still exists at the moment. However, the longer the ratification procees takes the harder it will be for the Court to overcome the rise of euro-scepticism and the growing reluctance of some member states to integrate further legal and economic areas.

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…

Bulgaria and Romania are gearing up for their ratification of the UPC Agreement

Brexit and the German constitutional challenge

The Unified Patent Court is getting closer to its entry into operation. Indeed after the UK’s ratification, Bulgaria and Romania are gearing up.

Bulgaria:

It has been reported that the Bulgarian parliament has adopted a bill to ratify the Protocol on Provisional Application . The  Parliament will now send the law to Bulgaria’s President who must issue a decree for promulgation, which in turn will be published in the State Gazette.

Romania:

In Romania, the government published its legislative programme for the rest of 2018. It reportedly aims at ratifying the UPC Agreement and its Protocol on Provisional Application by September 2018.

So where do we stand?

Regarding the UPC Agreement: At present, 16 countries have ratified the UPC Agreement (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, and the UK). However, the UPC Agreement will enter into force when the UK, France, Germany and 10 other countries will have ratified the Agreement. This means that only Germany’s ratification, on hold  due to a pending constitutional complaint, is now required.

Regarding the Protocol on Provisional Application: The PPA allows some provisions of the UPC Agreement to come into force early. This in order to allow for final preparations for the start of the UPC system, such as the recruitment of judges.  However under Article 3 of the Protocol, its entry into force will only arise a “the day after 13 Signatory States of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court including Germany, France and the United Kingdom, have either ratified, or informed the depositary that they have received parliamentary approval to ratify, the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court“. So far, the UK, France and 8 other countries (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden) have fulfilled those requirements. Therefore, the PPA will come into force when Germany  and two other countries have done so.

The UK ratifies the UPC Agreement and the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities

UK ratifies the UPC Agreement

The UK government announced on 26th April 2018 that the UK had ratified the UPC Agreement.

This ratification is particularly significant. Indeed, the UK is one of the three member states, with France and Germany, whose ratification is mandatory for the Agreement to come into force.

However, the UK’s ratification comes after the Brexit referendum in June 2016, which jeopardised the UK’s participation to the UPC. Indeed, before the UK leaves the EU, it must secure its participation to the UPC  by way of international agreements and amendments of the UPC Agreement.

The UK’s ratification of the UPC also raises the question of the UK’s respect of EU law. Article 20 of the UPC Agreement in fact states that ” (t)he Court shall apply Union law in its entirety and shall respect its primacy“.

Regarding these issues, the UK government declares laconically  that “(t)he unique nature of the proposed court means that the UK’s future relationship with the Unified Patent Court will be subject to negotiation with European partners as we leave the EU. 

The UK also ratified the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities

On 26th April 2018 the UK also ratified the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities. This protocol will entitle the Unified Patent Court to benefit from privileges and immunities necessary for the Court to exercise its functions. So far 5 countries have ratified it.

What does these ratifications mean for the UPC?

The UK’s ratifications are strong indicators of its long term commitment to the UPC. The UK’s participation to the UPC is good news as it will ensure the atractivity of the Court. This ratification may also speed up the entry into operation of the Court, regularly postponed since the signature of the UPC Agreement.

Therefore, the entry into force of the UPC Agreement now only requires Germany’s ratification. The latter however is on hold.  In fact, the German constitutional court must decide whether the German law passed to allow ratification is constitutional.

 

See here for more posts on Bexit and the UPC.

See here for more posts on Germany’s ratification.

 

 

 

 

Four key points to understand the Unified Patent Court

What should you know about the Unitary Patent?

(1) Which courts currently have jurisdiction over European patents?

Currently, national courts of the contracting states of the European Patent Convention (EPC) are competent to decide on the infringement and validity of the national part of European patents.

This gives rise to a number of difficulties when a patent proprietor wishes to enforce a European patent, or when a third-party seeks the revocation of a European patent, in several countries.

Patent proprietors indeed risk facing diverging decisions between the different national courts of the EPC contracting states. Patent proprietors also face high costs and legal uncertainty over the fate of their patents.

At present, forum shopping is inevitable. Parties in fact seek to take advantage of differences in the national courts’ interpretation of harmonised European patent law, the level of damages awarded, the national procedural laws, and litigation pace.

(2) What is the Unified Patent Court?

The Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPC Agreement) will create a specialised patent court, the Unified Patent Court (UPC).

The Unified Patent Court will have exclusive competence over European patents and European patents with unitary effect. The territorial jurisdiction of the UPC will extend to the 25 participating Member States (every European Union Member States besides Spain, Croatia and Poland).

This means that the rulings of the court will be simultaneously valid in all participating Member States.

The UPC will thus create a uniform and foreseeable patent environment within the European Union.

 

(3) Which legal instruments created the UPC?

Two Europeans regulations created the UPC:

  • Regulation (EU) N°1257/2012 dated 17th December 2012 implementing the enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of the unitary patent protection.
  • Regulation (EU) N°1260/2012 dated 17th December 2012 implementing the enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements.

These two regulations will apply from the entry into force of the UPC Agreement.

(4) How much will users of the court need to pay for each action before the UPC?

To learn about the different court fees see our detailed review.

What does “good ratification progress” mean?

Brexit and the German constitutional challenge

The Preparatory Committee latest update:

The Preparatory Committee published a short update on the UPC’s latest developments and the good ratification progress.

The update highlights the consequences of the German constitutional court review of Germany’s legislation allowing the ratification of the UPC Agreement. This action has in fact led to the postponement of Germany’s ratification until further notice by the German constitutional court. In turn, this new uncertainty has seriously jeopardised the timetable for the start of operations of the UPC and made it difficult to predict a new timeline.

The Preparatory Committee on the other hand underlines the good progress made by participating Member States with the ratification of the UPC Agreement. In fact, 14 countries have so far deposited their instruments of ratification. Hence, according to the Preparatory Committee, it is likely that 20 countries will have ratified the UPC Agreement by the time the UPC starts operating.

Why is “good ratification progress” good news for patent users?

The number of countries that will have ratified the UPC Agreement will be higher than the original estimations . This is good news for patent owners.

The EU Directive 1257/2012 and the UPC Agreement in fact both state that the territorial scope of the unitary patent and the UPC’s decisions will correspond to the territory of the Member States participating to the unitary patent package and having ratified the UPC Agreement. Article 3 of EU Directive 1257/2012  more specifically states that “(a) European patent with unitary effect (…) shall provide uniform protection and shall have equal effect in all the participating Member States. It may only be limited, transferred or revoked, or lapse, in respect of all the participating Member States.”  Similarly, article 54 of the UPC Agreement, provides that the territorial scope of the UPC’s decisions covers “the territory of those Contracting Member States for which the European patent has effect“.

This means that the more Member States ratify the UPC Agreement the larger the territorial scope of the Unitary Patent and the UPC is. Hence, from 2018, an inventor applying for a unitary patent or the owner of a non-opted out European patent will benefit from a protection extending to 20 countries . Likewise, a patent owner initiating an infringement action may be able to obtain a declaration of infringement in those 20 countries. The alleged infringer of that patent on the other hand may obtain its revocation in all those participating Member States.

Beyond the minimum required number of countries that must ratify the UPC Agreement for it to enter into force, the number of ratifications of the UPC Agreement will also importantly determine the territorial jurisdiction of the court and the territorial scope of the Unitary Patent.

So, which are the 14 countries that have ratified so far the UPC Agreement ?

Austria (2013), France (2014), Sweden (2014), Belgium (2014), Denmark (2014), Malta (2014), Luxembourg (2015), Portugal (2015), Finland (2016), Bulgaria (2016), Netherlands (2016), Italy (2017), Estonia (2017), Lithuania (2017).

The territorial scope of the UPC and the unitary Patent therefore looks like that:

Ratification progress map

(Green: Countries that have ratified / Pink: Countries that have not ratified yet / Brown: Countries not participating to the UPC)

Despite their ratification of the UPC Agreement, some of these countries however have not signed the protocols necessary for the entry into force of the UPC:

What about the 11 countries that still have not ratified the UPC Agreement?

The following countries have not ratified yet the UPC Agreement, however, most have made progress towards their participation to the UPC.

The UK: In October 2015 the UK signed the Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application. Since (on 26th October 2017) the Scottish Parliament debated and approved the draft International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) (Scotland) Amendment (N°2) Order 2017 which will give effect to the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the Unified Patent Court. This Order amends the Scottish International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) (Scotland) Order 2009 .

This is however only the first out of the two orders required for the UK to sign the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities. In fact both the UK and the Scottish Parliaments must review and amend their respective legislation. The UK Unitary patent Court (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2017 was laid before the UK Parliament on 26th June 2017 and is now awaiting debate before the UK Parliament.

The UK Parliament is on recess until 9th October 2017 and will thus only consider this statutory instrument from this date. As to ratification of the UPC Agreement the UK government undertook to ratify it before it leaves the European Union and reaffirmed its commitment to the UPC (see here). The UK Government has not however disclosed any date for ratification .

Germany: In March 2017 Germany passed a law to ratify the UPC AgreementIn April 2017 a challenge was brought before the German constitutional court arguing that the legislation passed by the German Parliament was unconstitutional. (See our posts on this issue here) This complaint has put a stop to Germany’s ratification process. The German constitutional court has not yet made public when it will consider the complaint. However, the court has extended (last week) its deadline for third parties comments on the issue to 31st December 2017. Germany has nonetheless signed the Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application in October 2015 and the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the Unified Patent Court in June 2016.

Ireland: In Ireland, although the Irish Prime Minister has announced seven referenda in September 2017, none will be on the ratification of the UPC Agreement. Ireland ratification of the UPC Agreement demands however that the Constitution be modified which can only be made through a referendum. The decision of the Irish Prime Minister to delay the organisation of this referendum  therefore postpone Ireland’s ratification to an unknown date. Ireland has also neither signed the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the Unified Patent Court nor the Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application.

Greece: In June 2016, Greece altogether with 11 other Member States signed the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities. Since, the Ministry of Justice consulted in March 2017 the public on the draft legislation to ratify the UPC Agreement (see the consultation here).  The same month Greece signed the Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application.

Hungary: It was reported that in July 2017, the Hungarian Minister of Justice, acting on behalf of the government, filed a motion with the Constitutional Court of Hungary (No. X / 01514/2017) requesting the Court’s opinion on the compatibility of the UPC Agreement  with the Hungarian Constitution “and on the appropriate mechanism that must be used for its ratification“.  The Hungarian government in fact wishes the Constitutional Court to determine whether the ratification of the UPC Agreement can be operated under the mechanism of transfer of sovereignty that must be used in relation with the EU and international agreements that Hungary sign as an EU member state. The nature of the UPC Agreement is in fact debated since the Brexit. Indeed if the UPC Agreement is an EU agreement, the UK’s participation to the UPC will be subject to amendments made to the UPC Agreement. If on the other hand the UPC Agreement is an international agreement the participation of the UK will be subject to, notably, its acceptance of the authority of the CJEU. Although for reasons related to the Hungarian constitutional order, the Hungarian constitutional court may thus determine this issue before the CJEU or Brexit negotiators reach a their own conclusion.

Slovenia: In October 2015 Slovenia signed the  Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application, followed in July 2017 by the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities in July 2017. It also passed a law ratifying the UPC Agreement in October 2016. Slovenia however has still not deposited its ratification instrument to the Council of the European Union. This renders it ineffective. Finally, Slovenia will be hosting the Patent Arbitration and Mediation centre in Ljubljana. In that respect Slovenia has registered a declaration by the Council of the European Union stating that “(t)he Republic of Slovenia considers that the Patent Mediation and Arbitration Centre as established by the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court, done at Brussels on 19 February 2013, is part of the Unified Patent Court, and that consequently the provisions of the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the Unified Patent Court, done at Brussels on 29 June 2016, apply mutatis mutandis to the Centre.

Latvia: Latvia has passed a law ratifying the UPC Agreement in April 2017. This law however will only come into force on 1st January 2018. Latvia is planning to take part in the Nordic-Baltic regional division of the UPC with Sweden, Lithuania and Estonia but must first pass a law allowing its participation to this regional division.

The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania have not initiated any development towards their participation to the UPC. 

Ratification of the UPC Agreement: Lithuania becomes 14th country to ratify, but what about the UK and Germany?

UK ratifies the UPC Agreement

14 countries have now ratified the UPC Agreement

Lithuania ratified the UPC Agreement on 24th August. This ratification arises after Estonia ratified the Agreement on 1st August. Lithuania therefore becomes the 14th country to ratify the UPC Agreement, which now only awaits the UK and Germany’s ratification to come into effect.

What about the UK’s ratification? 

The UK is expected to progress towards ratification from September after summer recess. The Brexit talks may however in part determine when the UK will ratify the UPC Agreement. This makes it difficult to predict when the UK government will ratify the UPC Agreement. (See our section on Brexit and the UPC for more on the topic).

Why has Germany’s ratification been stopped? 

Germany’s ratification was suspended in June after a complaint was filed before the German Constitutional Court. The Court subsequently asked the Federal President to suspend the signature of the legislation implementing the Unitary Patent Package voted on 31st March by the German Parliament .

In an article dated 16th August, the Kluwer Patent Blog published the following brief description of the complaint sent by the German Federal Constitutional Court in response to their enquiry: (as translated by Kluwer)

“In terms of substance, plaintiff is essentially asserting a breach of the limits to surrendering sovereignty that are derived from the right to democracy (Art. 38 (1), clause 1, Basic Law). Primarily the following violations are asserted:

• breach of the requirement for a qualified majority arising from Art. 23 (1), sentence 3, in conjunction with Art. 79 (2) Basic Law;

• democratic deficits and deficits in rule of law with regard to the regulatory powers of the organs of the UPC;

• the judges of the UPC are not independent nor do they have democratic legitimacy

• breach of the principle of openness towards European law owing to alleged irreconcilability of the UPC with Union law.

The proceedings are pending; a specific date for the decision is presently not foreseeable.”

The complaint therefore raises three issues: 

The first issue concerns the quorum required by German law for the ratification of the UPC Agreement.  The complaint in fact suggests that the law ratifying the UPC Agreement if implemented would amend the German constitution. However any amendment of the German constitution must be passed by a majority of two third of MPs. If the German Constitutional Court finds that this law actually amends the constitution then the German Parliament will have to reexamine it again. The first ratification law was in fact passed with a lesser threshold.

The complaint then raises the questions of the democratic deficit of the UPC and the independence of its judges. These grounds seem to refer to the recurrent criticisms made about the EU and EPO institutions, but it is hard to say more without access to the complaint.

Finally, the last ground points to a breach of EU law either by the legislation allowing the ratification of the UPC Agreement or the UPC Agreement itself. This would indeed render the UPC incompatible with EU law.

However, none of these grounds are self explanatory. A more detailed analysis of the complaint will thus only be possible once the complaint is available to the public.

So what is the impact of this constitutional challenge on Germany’s ratification?

In any case, the German publication “Juve.de” reckons that such a constitutional challenge is unlikely to be examined within less than 4 to 6 months. This complaint would thus postpone Germany’s ratification to January 2018. By a domino effect the start of operation of the UPC would then be postponed to the first quarter of 2018.

Estonia ratifies the UPC Agreement

UK ratifies the UPC Agreement

Thirteen countries have now ratified the UPC Agreement

Estonia has deposited its instrument of ratification of the UPC Agreement on 1st August 2017. Estonia’s ratification happens after it had notified its consent to the start of the UPC provisional application phase in July.

Estonia thus becomes the 13th country to ratify the Agreement. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden have also ratified the Agreement.

However, the UPC Agreement will only come into effect once 13 member states including France, Germany and the UK have completed their ratification.

So when will the UPC Agreement come into effect? 

Ratification by Germany and the UK has been put on hold. This has thus caused delays in the coming into effect of the UPC Agreement.

Germany’s ratification was suspended by the German constitutional court, after it received a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the German legislation enabling the ratification of the UPC Agreement. As it could take up to six months for the Constitutional Court to examine the complaint, Germany’s ratification could be postponed to 2018.

Similarly, despite the UK ‘s declaration that it would apply the Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application in July, the UK’s ratification was postponed due to the general elections and summer recess. There are  also two important uncertainties as to the UK’s participation to the UPC:

  • First, whether the UPC Agreement can be amended to allow a non-EU member state to participate in the UPC;
  • Second, whether the London section of the central division of the UPC will need to be relocated after Brexit. This was mentioned by Michel Barnier’s -the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and Commissioner for Internal Market and Services in charge of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) dossier at the time of signature in 2013 of the UPC Agreement- during the last round of Brexit talks.

Hence, although Estonia’s ratification is good news for the UPC, the timetable published by the Preparatory Committee announcing the entry into operation of the court in December 2017 seems unlikely. 

Update on the UPC timetable: a message from UPC Preparatory Committee Chairman

Brexit and the German constitutional challenge

On 7th June 2017 the Preparatory Committee announced through a statement a delay in the start of the Period of provisional application and in the entry into force of the UPC Agreement. No new timetable was announced, but the committee expressed its will to publish one in the foreseeable future.

Yesterday the chairman of the Preparatory Committee Alexander Ramsay released a message on the UPC website.

The Preparatory Committee is still waiting on two different national procedures:

  • The ratification of the UPC Agreement, which requires the deposit of 13 instruments of ratification, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
  • The approval of the Protocol on Provisional Application (PPA) by 13 Member States that have already signed the UPC Agreement and whose Governments have received Parliamentary approval to ratify the UPC Agreement.

On one hand, the chairman noted that the ratification process has progressed in both Estonia and the United Kingdom. Estonia indeed passed the necessary legislation to ratify the UPC Agreement and the UPC Order on Privileges and Immunities was placed before the British Parliament on 26th June.

But on the other hand, three  Member States, including Germany and the UK, still need to approve the PPA to start the provisional application period.

The chairman insisted on the recent delay of the German ratification bill by the Federal Constitutional Court due to a recently complaint. In fact, the German Constitutional Court received a complaint in April 2017 challenging the constitutionality of the legislation enabling the ratification of the UPC Agreement. The grounds and the source of the complaint remain unknown to the public. However, the Court considered this complaint justified enough to request the Federal President not to sign the bill and examine the complaint before ratification.

Considering the above, the chairman concluded it is currently difficult to maintain a definitive starting date for the period of provisional application. According to him, the provisional application period should start during the autumn 2017 followed by the sunrise period for the opt-out procedure in early 2018. Around three months later, the UPC Agreement should enter into force and the UPC should become operational.

This announcement is consistent with the timetable that was expected by most experts. The UPCBlog team will follow any update on a more detailed timetable.

 

German Federal Constitutional Court stops German ratification bill

German Federal Constitutional Court stops ratification of UPCA

The ratification of the UPC Agreement might be facing another delay.

According to a report from a German newspaper (the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), the German Federal Constitutional Court (the Bundesverfassungsgericht) asked the Federal President to suspend the signature of the legislation implementing the Unitary Patent Package voted on 31st March by the German Parliament  necessary -together with the German executive’s and its publication in the German Federal Law Gazette- for it to become legislation.

The German Constitutional Court in fact received a complaint in April 2017 (2 BvR 739/17), from a currently unknown source, challenging the constitutionality of the legislation enabling the ratification of the UPC agreement.  Although the grounds remain unknown to the public, the Court considered this complaint justified enough to request the Federal President not to sign the bill and examine the complaint before ratification.

The Constitutional Court spokesperson confirmed that the President had indeed agreed, as a preliminary measure, to delay signing the bill.

It is however difficult to say whether this unexpected event will slow down, again, the ratification process of the UPC agreement. In fact, Germany still has time to deposit its instruments of ratification by September 2017, thus allowing the UPC to be launched by the beginning of 2018.