Further progress has been made towards the opening of the Unified Patent Court and the Preparatory Committee has recently announced that the ‘provisional application phase’ of the UPC agreement is now expected to start at the end of May 2017. Only a few more signatory states need to accede to the “Protocol on Provisional Application” in order for the period officially to commence and they are confident that this will be achieved soon.
The provisional application phase means that the organization as such can be established, including the start of operation of the UPC’s formal governing bodies. It also means that the appointment of judges can officially start. A team is now working to oversee the recruitment of judges and the testing of IT and case management systems, to ensure readiness for the Court opening.
On the basis of the above timetable, the beginning of the sunrise-period for opting out of the jurisdiction of the UPC is scheduled to begin in September 2017 (to allow a minimum of three months before the Court becomes operational, possibly in December 2017).
Meanwhile, the German parliament has passed the necessary legislation required for Germany to ratify the UPC Agreement. Once Germany and the UK have ratified the Agreement the threshold of at least 13 Signatory States (including France, UK and Germany), required for the Agreement to come into effect, will be reached.
In a non-binding vote on 7 March 2017, the Spanish parliament passed a motion urging the country’s government to reconsider its longstanding objections to the Unitary Patent Package (consisting of the UPC and European Unitary Patent) and take steps to join. Partido Popular (PP), the party holding the minority government, reportedly voted against the motion, so a change in the government position is unlikely to be imminent. However, this vote has been viewed as an encouraging sign that Spain may – eventually – sign up to participate in the UPC.