The current stage of Unitary Patent Court – France ratified the Bill – Malta’s status not yet officially confirmed

by Miina Viitala

The French National Assembly voted to ratify the Bill on the Unitary Patent Court (UPC) on 13th February.[1] In order for the agreement to be binding President François Hollande now has to sign it. On the official webpage of the Assembly, it declares the following: ‘Est autorisée la ratification de l’accord relatif à une juridiction unifiée du brevet (ensemble deux annexes), signé à Bruxelles, le 19 février 2013, et dont le texte est annexé à la présente loi.’/ ‘The process of ratification of the legislation regarding the unified patent jurisdiction has been authorised and signed in Brussels (19/02/2013) and it has been annexed to the current statute.’[2]

The only other country which has ratified the agreement so far is Austria. In order for the Unitary Patent Court to be established there have to be at least 13 countries which have ratified the Bill and those 13 countries are to include France, Germany and the United Kingdom, i.e., the ones hearing the disputes. The Agreement on the Unitary Patent Court has been signed by all Member States excluding Croatia, Poland and Spain. Italy will take part in the Unitary Patent Court system but won’t take part in other aspects of the European patent with unitary effect. The United Kingdom and Germany (the remaining mandatory participants) haven’t yet ratified the Bill and assumedly the UK won’t do this before 2015. In the UK, the Bill is progressing through the Parliament and in Germany some progress may be made since the elections.

There are signs that Malta has also ratified the Unitary Patent Court agreement in January but neither Malta nor France is yet confirmed as having ratified according to the Commission’s webpage.[3] An article in the Malta Independent states that the agreement was discussed in the Parliament in January: ‘PN MP Jason Azzopardi said that he had signed the ratification on behalf of a PN-led government.’[4] The official webpage of Malta’s Parliament claims that last month’s meeting included a discussion of ratification of the Unitary Patent Court Agreement but nothing has yet been released on the issue officially. Even if the ratification is not yet official, it can be safely assumed that the ratification has taken place and France wasn’t the second but the third Member State to ratify the agreement on the Unitary Patent Court. It can be assumed that Malta’s ratification will be published by Brussels soon.

After the President’s signing, the French Bill is then to be registered with the Council of the European Union. This phase is seen more or less as a mere formality and after that the Bill will be published in the Official Journal. At the time of writing, only Austria had reached this phase. In relation to the Unitary Patent Court, different Member States are currently at different stages. Belgium is assumedly ratifying the Bill during the spring. Denmark is holding a referendum on the Unitary Patent Court in May[5] and Ireland will also have a referendum on the issue, but the date has not yet been announced.[6] No other progress in other countries has been released.

Miina Viitala is LLM Candidate at Queen Mary University of London and is working as a Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute (QMIPRI) Student Research Fellow and Assistant Editor of Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property (QMJIP).

 


[1] National Assembly of France Notice: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/ta/ta0294.asp

[2] Translation provided by Miss Andréa Hebrard (QMPRI)