France, as well as 10 other countries, have already ratified an agreement for a unitary patent and Unified Patent Court, which means that the UK’s and Germany’s ratification would allow the agreement to enter into force.

The court at Aldgate Tower in London is due to host the ‘human necessities’ division - this will include disputes related to pharmaceuticals and medical devices, but the UK will also be responsible for managing the IT provisions of the court.

The UK Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, has commented: ‘The new system will provide an option for businesses that need to protect their inventions across Europe. The UK has been working with partners in Europe to develop this option....for as long as we are members of the EU, the UK will continue to play a full and active role. We will seek the best deal possible as we negotiate a new agreement with the EU'.

It is expected that the UK will continue to honour its obligations under the agreement. Clearly, if it does not do so, the other members would go ahead without the UK, which would make it difficult to join in the system later. 

A Europe-wide patent court was one of the key aspects of the original Community Patent project in the 1970s, which led to the European Patent Convention. The UPC should be good for business, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, as it will reduce their costs and streamline administrative processes.

However, if ratification is followed by a failure to negotiate the UK’s continued participation in the unitary patent post-Brexit, then ratification may turn out to be against the UK’s interests.