Europe’s Unified Patent Court - part of which will be based in London - is expected to open in December this year, the committee charged with getting the project off the ground has revealed.

The UPC Preparatory Committee said today that it is working ‘under the assumption’ that the court will become operational before the end of year – with a targeted opening date of 1 December.

Despite uncertainty about its position regarding the UPC in the wake of the vote to leave the EU, the UK signalled its intention to ratify the agreement in November.

When operational the UPC will hear disputes relating to unitary patents, a new form of patent protection that will be valid across the EU.

There will be branches of the court across the EU with major divisions in Paris, Germany and the UK.

The courts will have to abide by EU law and will be answerable to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Despite this, the Intellectual Property Office has stressed that the UPC is ‘not an EU institution’.

The UK will host its branch in Aldgate Tower, on the edge of the City. It will be the first arm of the Court of Justice of the EU to be based on UK soil.

The court will host the ‘human necessities’ division, which will include disputes related to pharmaceuticals and medical devices, but the UK will also be responsible for managing the IT of the entire UPC system.

The committee also said today that after the UK ratifies the agreement, expected in the spring, then a ‘provisional application phase’ will begin in May.

This will allow various parts of the UPC agreement to come into force early and for the recruitment of judges.

Meanwhile, in its 'Brexit and the Law' submission made to the Department for Exiting the EU, the Law Society said today it wanted to ensure that the UK ‘remains a centre of excellence for patent law’.

‘Notwithstanding the UK’s exit from EU membership, it should negotiate to ensure that the UK can continue to participate in the Unified Patent Court Agreement and retain the court in London,’ Chancery Lane said.

Prime minister Theresa May is to give a speech tomorrow, 17 January, outlining some of her plans for Brexit negotiations. Reports have suggested she will signal pulling out of the EU’s single market and customs union, although Downing Street described this as ‘speculation’.

In September, the Gazette reported suggestions that the UK could remain part of the court even after it leaves the EU but would need to enter into a new agreement.

Before the system can come into force 13 countries will have to ratify the agreement. Of those 13, France, Germany and the UK are mandatory. France has also ratified the agreement and Germany is expected to ratify it shortly after the UK.