The intellectual property minister has insisted that the government has sufficient will to ensure the UK can remain part of the proposed Unified Patent Court (UPC) post Brexit – despite uncertainty regarding the court’s ties with the EU.
Sam Gyimah said the government was ‘determined to make sure it works’ and that it recognises both the value that the UK would offer the UPC and vice versa.
Gyimah was appearing before the House of Lords’ EU Justice Sub-Committee which has been taking evidence over the past few weeks on intellectual property rights after Brexit.
The committee questioned Gyimah on whether the government is sufficiently committed to ensuring the UK remained in the UPC. Peers referenced quotes from IP barrister Daniel Alexander who had earlier told the committee that despite political uncertainty on whether the UK can remain in the system one view is to say ‘where there’s a will there’s a way.’
Gyimah said the situation was not ‘cut and dried’ but that it should be possible to remain a member after Brexit.
The UPC is a proposed international court for resolving disputes that could arise from a proposed unitary patent - a newly created patent valid in 25 countries. At the moment, the UPC system is made up only of EU members. The committee also asked whether the UPC’s deference to the Court of Justice of the EU on certain matters was out of step with the government’s negotiating position.
Gyimah said the rules were clear and that the CJEU would not act as a ‘final arbiter’. He added that the UPC is an ‘international court’ and that any CJEU opinion would not have an impact in domestic law.
Adam Williams, director of international policy at the UK Intellectual Property Office, said it was possible that the UPC could continue with or without the UK.
The committee also heard that the government was putting in place plans to ‘clone’ the UK arm of an EU-wide trade mark so that right owners, whose mark would otherwise lose its validity in the UK after Brexit, would not be negatively impacted. Williams said he was confident an effective system for managing the process would be in place and that there would be ‘minimal administrative burden’.