The introduction of the Unitary Patent (a single patent covering 25 countries) and the establishment of a new patent court, the Unified Patent Court (UPC) will affect holders of existing European Patents as well as those seeking new protection for inventions.
The UPC Preparatory Committee recently met for the last time before the Provisional Application Phase of the UPC begins. Minor amendments to the Rules of Procedure were agreed by the Committee as well as legal, HR and financial documents. Now an established team is working to oversee the recruitment of judges and testing of the IT and case management system crucial to the smooth running of the new court. The Preparatory Committee is confident that the Provisional Application Phase will start in May 2017 as planned.
The period of provisional application cannot actually begin until the required Signatory States have ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement and acceded to the Protocol on Provisional Application.
This timing is crucial to allow the Sunrise Period for opting patents out of the system to begin in September 2017, allowing a 3 month opt-out window before the UPC goes live in December 2017 to allow time for business to adjust their IP strategies.