Germany is one of the three crucial EU member states (alongside the UK and France) which must ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement before the new European Unitary Patent system can come into effect.

In a major step towards ratification, the Federal Ministry of Justice has now released drafts of two laws which will implement the UPC Agreement. Notably, these amend the German laws on double patenting so that it will not be permissible to hold a German national patent and an "opted-out" European patent with the same content, but it will be permissible to hold a German national patent in parallel with an "opted-in" European patent or a Unitary Patent. This is in contrast to the approach taken in the corresponding UK legislation, which does not allow a proprietor to hold both a unitary patent and a corresponding UK national patent.

The German Ministry of Justice also expects that the UPC will deal with about 180 cases in its first year of operation, requiring 20 full-time and 20 part-time judges to be appointed (and, as I reported recently, recruitment for judges is now open).  At present the expectation seems to be that Germany will delay completion of the ratification process until all other aspects of the Court are ready (such as the appointment of the necessary number of judges). This mean that a date some time during the first half of 2017 now seems likely for entry into force of the Unitary Patent system.

For more details on the UPC, please visit our dedicated UPC site here.