Tribunale Unificato dei Brevetti

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On 18 October 2016 the Higher House of the Italian Parliament approved the draft bill on ratification of the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA), with 161 votes in favour, 30 against and 7 abstentions. The approval by the Higher House comes only a few weeks after the same bill was approved by the Italian Chamber of Deputies on September 15th, and a few days after the opinion of Commission on EU affairs of the House commented here.

The bill is now ready to move to the final stages of the ratification process and to be signed into law by the President of the Republic. This approval comes in a moment of great uncertainty on the future of the system, due to the turmoil caused by the UK referendum.

The Italian Ministry of Justice has identified the premises of the Milanese local division of the Unified Patent Court (see press release here). The division will be hosted in a new building, a few meters away from the main courthouse. The building already hosts other judicial offices and, as of today, is not entirely in use, ensuring the necessary flexibility if an expansion of the division will be needed in the future. See here for an aerial view of the San Barnaba building.

Interestingly, the Ministry’s press release does not refer to the possibility that Milan may in the future be the seat of the life sciences branch of the central division. This is probably an indication that a request of reallocation of the London branch is seen as premature in light of the current efforts to ensure continuing participation of the UK in the UPC project. This may reflect the view which is shared by many in Europe that a system without the UK would be less attractive.

This prudent approach seems to be shared by the Higher House of the Italian Parliament, where the draft bill enabling Italy to ratify the UPC Agreement is currently under examination, after having been approved by the lower House. With the opinion of 5 October, the Commission for EU affairs of the Higher House approved the wording of the draft bill, adding the following (inevitably convoluted) recommendation: “it is suggested that Italy shall host a local division of the Court of first instance and, if and the when the negotiations concerning the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union so allow, may offer itself as the candidate country to replace the London branch of the central division” (the opinion is available here). This seems to suggest that at least for the time being Italy will keep a wait and see approach until the dust of Brexit settles.  

Following the favorable opinion of the Commission, the draft bill will now have to go through a general vote in the House. Approval is expected soon, even if the voting day is not yet on the House’s schedule.

brexit-referendum-uk-1468255044bIX.jpgLarga parte degli addetti ai lavori si è interrogata sulle sorti del Tribunale Unificato dei Brevetti (Unified Patent Court – UPC) a seguito del referendum inglese. E’ evidentemente molto difficile dare risposte certe, ma si possono ipotizzare i diversi possibili scenari.

Partendo dagli aspetti meno aleatori, si può ormai sostenere quasi con certezza che ci sarà quantomeno uno slittamento dell’entrata in vigore dell’UPC rispetto alle previsioni pre-Brexit, che, come noto, collocavano tale entrata in vigore per l’inizio del 2017. Presupposto di queste previsioni era che il Regno Unito ratificasse l’Accordo UPC entro la fine del 2016, il che sembra ormai più impossibile che improbabile.

Senza una tale ratifica, ove non si procedesse ad una revisione dell’Accordo, occorrerà attendere che il Regno Unito cessi di essere uno Stato Membro dell’Unione Europea (verosimilmente, non prima della fine del 2018, visto il termine di due anni previsto dall’ormai a tutti familiare art. 50 del Trattato di Lisbona). L’Accordo UPC infatti prevede – come condizione per la sua entrata in vigore – la ratifica da parte dei tre paesi membri dell’Unione Europea sul cui territorio più brevetti europei spiegavano i loro effetti nel 2012 (ossia Germania, Francia e, appunto, fino a che non cessi di essere un paese membro dell’Unione Europea, Regno Unito).

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