By Morag Peberdy and Christina Helden
Life sciences companies are already contemplating changing their patent strategies in anticipation of the EU’s Unitary Patent. However, the timeline for the EU Unitary Patent has been delayed. When the legislative package was agreed last December, many speculated that the 1 January 2014 date for the implementation of the EU’s Unitary Patent was overly ambitious. The publication of the UK’s new Intellectual Property Bill (the “Bill”) on 10 May 2013 now gives real substance to this viewpoint. The provisions of the Bill indicate that the UK will not ratify the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (the “Agreement”), one of the key legislative instruments required for the Unitary Patent’s implementation, until April or May 2015. Since the UK must ratify the Agreement before it can be implemented anywhere in Europe, it appears that the timetable has been derailed.
The Unitary Patent will create a single patent with unitary effect, litigated in a Unified European Patent Court. Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 and Council regulation (EU) No 1260/2012 provide for the single patent with unitary effect. The former also establishes the 1 January timeline for its implementation. The Agreement creates the court system which will govern the new system. However, the Unitary Patent cannot come into effect until 4 months after 13 EU member states have ratified the Agreement, which must include the UK, France and Germany.