Date: 20 December 2016
On 14 December 2016, the UK government took another step towards ratification of the Unified Patent Court Agreement, by quietly signing the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the UPC. This was signed by thirteen other EU states in June and July, but the UK held off after the Brexit referendum.
This move is being seen as a tangible indication that the UK government is not merely posturing in its announcement of intent to ratify the UPC Agreement while still a member of the EU and has led to speculation that the UK will ratify in March/April 2017 (perhaps in the wake of triggering Article 50 TFEU). If so, that in turn starts a 4-month process towards the Court coming into effect in September/October 2017. The task for the government will then be to negotiate continued membership of the UPC after Brexit. Perhaps the government takes the view that it will be in a better position to negotiate for (and sell to its electorate) continuation of something that has already started.
The UK will continue to be a member of the European Patent Convention. That is not in doubt. The UPC is foreshadowed in Art 142 EPC. All that remains is a mechanism to ensure that the UK division of the new Court shall continue to "apply Union law and respect its primacy" as required by Art. 20 of the Agreement.