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Germany votes to ratify Unified Patent Court

The German parliament has voted to ratify the Unified Patent Court (UPC) agreement.

The passing of the draft legislation involved a vote on two separate bills, one giving Germany's consent to the UPC Agreement, and the other implementing the unitary patent system into German law.

The UPC, when established, will serve as a new judicial framework to underpin a new unitary patent system. Businesses will be able to apply to the European Patent Office for unitary patents which, if granted, would automatically confer on them patent protection for their inventions which will apply across every country that gives recognition to the unitary patent regime, which at the moment looks set to be almost every EU country.

The existing European patent framework enables businesses to obtain EU-wide patent protection, but only after patents have been validated in each EU country, which can involve significant translation costs for businesses.

The UPC Agreement requires the consent of at least 13 EU countries, including the three with the most valid European patents in 2012: Germany, France and the UK. France has already voted to ratify the agreement.

The UK government said in November 2016 that the UK will ratify the Agreement, despite the country voting to leave the EU. However, there is uncertainty over the UK's participation in the new patent regime post-Brexit as the Agreement currently requires countries participating in the new unitary patent and UPC system to be EU members.

"The bills will now have to be confirmed by the second parliamentary chamber representing German federal states, the Bundesrat. However, this is considered to be a mere formality," said Marc Holtorf, intellectual property expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

The UPC is expected to launch in December 2017.

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