3 February 2017Patents

Westminster Legal Policy Forum: Lawyers and industry professionals talk UPC and Brexit

Intellectual property lawyers and industry professionals have spoken about the future of the unitary patent, Unified Patent Court (UPC) and their IP impact post-Brexit.

Luke McDonagh, lecturer at City, University of London’s school of law, spoke about patent law and the emerging priorities for IP owners.

McDonagh spoke at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum Keynote Seminar: The future for the UK’s Patent Framework, yesterday, February 2.

He began his speech by saying he is an academic, not a patent attorney, adding that he would talk about the “current state of play” of patent law in the UK and “where we may be going post-Brexit”.

McDonagh discussed the pros and cons of the UPC, with the advantages including IP owners being able to revoke their patent centrally and the court’s reduced litigation and enforcement costs.

However, a possible increase in ‘patent trolls’ was a very real threat.

He concluded that there is a “transition period” for the court no matter what happens post-Brexit and that at present it is “too early to say” what the UK’s role in the court will be.

In the afternoon, McDonagh chaired a panel that further discussed the unitary patent package with lawyers and industry professionals.

Kevin Mooney, partner at law firm Simmons & Simmons, joked that there is “very little you can usefully say in five minutes”.

Mooney, who is also chairman of the drafting committee of the UPC rules of procedure and member of the UPC expert group, confirmed that the UK will ratify the UPC in March and the court will become operational in December this year.

Tim Frain, head of IP regulatory affairs at Nokia, said that he would bring a “slightly different perspective” to the topic.

He said that the unitary patent is a “goal” for the technology industry and the UK government’s planned ratification of the UPC Agreement is a “welcome surprise”.

Frain added that if the UK were to ratify and subsequently leave the UPC post-Brexit, there are currently no withdrawal procedures within the agreement.

“Brexit has shone a light on this situation,” he added.

However, Frain said that the unitary patent is an optional route for patent owners and the traditional routes will remain the default.

Yesterday, members of parliament in the House of Commons voted for the triggering of article 50 in a majority vote of 334-114.

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