Today, the Preparatory Committee for the Unified Patent Court (UPC) issued a new timetable for the start of the unitary patent and the UPC.
The Committee has designated December 2017 as the month in which the unitary patent and UPC are to start. The so-called sunrise period will start three months earlier, in September 2017. During this sunrise period holders of European patents and patent applications can indicate that they do not want their patent to come under the jurisdiction of the UPC, i.e. that they want to opt out.
The Preparatory Committee emphasizes that this is a provisional timetable which is largely dependent on the necessary ratifications going ahead without any delay. Before the unitary patent and the UPC can start, thirteen participating countries including, in any event, Great Britain, Germany and France, must ratify the treaty. Up until now, eleven countries, including France, have done so. This means that the wait is now for ratification by Great Britain and Germany.
At the end of 2016, the government of Great Britain let it be known that it was going to continue with the preparations for the ratification of the treaty despite Brexit. Many people felt that this was a good sign that the unitary patent was going to be set up soon. The latest news appears to confirm this.
It remains to be seen whether the Committee's timetable is feasible. However, the Committee would not issue such a timetable without first discussing it with the various parties involved, including the participating countries and the EPO. Although more and more green lights are being given, this remains a political process and that means a few more twists and turns cannot be ruled out.