Patently obvious? You’d think so
The UK is not universally loved in Europe. Just ask Engelbert Humperdinck. So the notoriously Europhile justice secretary Kenneth Clarke was in an awkward position this week in respect of the new European patents court. Chancery Lane added its voice to warnings that UK plc will miss out on up to £3bn a year if the hub is located not in London, but in Paris or Munich. The Law Society called on Clarke ‘not to compromise the UK’s position as a leading innovator and commercial legal centre’ by agreeing to the court being based elsewhere.
It was a timely intervention. London’s aspiration to establish itself as the European centre for commercial litigation and arbitration is already facing intense competition, as today’s feature on international arbitration shows. That aspiration will certainly be diluted if the new court opens somewhere else. The government was expected to discuss the issue with other European governments as the Gazette went to press.
London, with its manifold advantages, not least language and a judiciary pre-eminent in patent litigation, is the patently obvious choice. Yet given the government’s recently strained relations with our EU partners, it appeared anything but certain that London would win the day - even if Clarke were in no mood for compromise anyway.