An early casualty of UK withdrawal from the EU could be Europe’s long-drawn-out scheme to create a unified patent regime.
The Unified Patent Court, due to open next year, will have two sections in London: a local division and the UK’s share of the central division. They will be housed in Aldgate Tower, a new 18-storey block on the edge of the City, with four courtrooms capable of hearing around 16 cases a week. Its offices are due to open for preparatory work this month.
However the referendum result has cast doubt over the future of not just the UK’s participation – which depends on EU membership – but of the whole court and the new unitary patent system it is set up to regulate.
Rebecca Halford-Harrison, IP disputes partner at London boutique firm Kemp Little, pointed out that the treaty creating the court requires formal ratification by 13 countries, among them the UK. In the UK’s absence, the treaty which was agreed through the EU’s enhanced cooperation procedure, would need to be amended.
With Milan the most likely alternative to London, this could prompt objections by other member states. Halford-Harrison said the UK had provided ‘a significant proportion’ of the effort to create the court and without its involvement the enterprise could founder.