The outcome of the British referendum is causing a great deal of uncertainty with regard to the introduction of the unitary patent, now that Britain is going to cancel its EU membership.
The only thing that is certain is that Britain's departure is a major blow for the unitary patent as a whole. The reason for this being that it was Britain's participation in this new patent system that made it so interesting for companies wanting to protect their inventions in several European countries. It is going to take some time for the dust to settle and the exact consequences for the unitary patent to become clear.
New relationship with Europe
Now that the British are no longer going to be part of the EU, what was once considered to be an appealing patent system is going to become far less appealing. Non-EU countries, like Norway and Switzerland, cannot join the unitary patent or the new United Patent Court (UPC). It is now up to the British to decide what their new relationship with Europe is going to look like. It also remains to be seen what is going to happen with the ratification process. It seems likely that the introduction of the unitary patent, which was scheduled for 2 May 2017, is now going to be delayed quite significantly.
Called into question
The amounts of the renewal fees payable will need to be reconsidered. It is only logical that if you are going to get less you are also going to be paying less (the size of the area and the market are going to be reduced). In addition a solution will need to be found for that part of the UPC's Central Division that was going to be based in Britain. A new location in The Hague or Milan would seem logical. It is possible, however, that the whole idea of a unitary patent and UPC is going to be called into question as a result of the Brexit fall-out.
It is also possible that Britain, despite its departure from the EU, will still ratify the UPC treaty. That would be rather odd as this was meant to be a step towards further European integration. In theory it would nevertheless be possible, for example because it would enable the British to earn some loose change for the actual exit negotiations.
The British were furthermore great supporters and important initiators of the unitary patent. Despite their objections to the EU they always saw the benefits of this patent and the UPC. It is not unthinkable therefore that the British position is going to be: we get out of the EU but want to let this wonderful plan go ahead, despite the fact that we are not going to be part of it ourselves.
Right now there is a great deal of uncertainty on all fronts about the consequences of this Brexit. It is also still impossible to predict what the outcome is going to be for the unitary patent and the UPC. Needless to say we will be keeping a close eye on the situation and will keep you posted on all the latest developments.