Date: 20 October 2019
The UK will continue to be part of the European Patent Office (EPO) because the EPO is not an EU institution, so whatever happens to the relationship between the UK and the EU, the UK will continue to be an EPO member state. This means that patents are not affected by the UK’s departure from the EU.
Changes to supplementary protection certificate (SPC) law, address for service, cross-licensing with plant-variety rights and security for costs outlined here will take effect after 1 January 2021.
The granting of European patents is governed by the European Patent Convention (EPC), which is not a piece of EU legislation. This means that the UK can still be included in any European patent application, and this provides an effective way of protecting an invention across the whole of Europe, including non-EU contries like Switzerland and Turkey. Patent pending rights can be obtained in all 38 countries with a single application. Once the patent is granted, then the application becomes a national patent depending on which of the 38 countries have been selected. An English translation is not required for many of those countries.
For applicants who wish to speed up the process in the UK and obtain a granted UK patent quickly, there is also the option of filing an additional, separate UK patent application. Obtaining a granted UK patent via this route can take as little as one year, compared to the three to five years it usually takes to obtain a granted European patent.
There is a question mark hovering over the future of the Unified Patents Court (UPC) in the event of the UK leaving the EU. The UK Government has ratified the Unified Patent Court agreement but, as the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court are not yet in force, changes to the relevant law are not currently needed. However, the UK Government has said “we intend to explore staying in the systems with our European partners. Whether changes are required, and what they will do, will depend on the outcome of those discussions.”