The government has been pressed on whether it plans to ratify the EU-wide Unified Patent Court agreement and if London will continue to host a central division of the court system.
This morning, Labour revealed that it would stage a motion in the House of Commons today that calls for ‘proper scrutiny’ of the negotiations for leaving the EU.
Ahead of that motion, the party has asked Brexit secretary David Davies 170 questions, one for each day until the planned date for triggering Article 50—currently thought to be at the end of March.
The government has been asked if it intends to proceed with ratification of the UPC agreement and if not what steps is it taking to negotiate an alternative agreement. It has also been urged to clarify if the UK will be able to continue to host a central division of the court in Aldgate Tower (pictured) should the UPC go ahead.
The UK, France and Germany, as the three countries with the highest number of European patents in effect when the UPC agreement was signed, are required to ratify the proposals before they become law. Those three countries will host a central division.
But both the Netherlands and Italy have hinted that they would be keen to host a central division should the UK lose its spot.
Last week, the Italian Ministry of Justice announced that a local division of the court would be hosted in the Tribunale di Milano, an exisiting court building.
Draft legislation that will enable Italy to ratify the UPC agreement is currently in the Italian Senate (Senato dello Repubblica) having already been passed by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament.
Rowan Freeland, partner at international firm Simmons & Simmons, one of 20 firms that has backed calls for the UK to remain part of the agreement post-Brexit, said it should be possible to retain ‘islands of soft Brexit against a backdrop of a hard Brexit’.
Freeland referenced a report by Richard Gordon QC of Brick Court Chambers which said it could be legally possible for the UK to remain party to the agreement.
The report, commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and several law firms, found that the UK can participate provided it signs up to safeguards to protect EU constitutional principles, including the supremacy of EU law.
Freeland added that other member states were ‘holding fire’ to see what the UK does and, although there is a legal framework the political difficulties should not be underestimated.
Sebastian Moore, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, said it was another example of an area where the UK has ‘made commitments’ and was one of the EU-related debates that will come to a head first.