Britain should join the EU’s patents union and stay in after Brexit, businesses on both sides of the Channel have demanded, arguing that the Unitary Patent system is helpful regardless of Britain’s status in or out of the EU.
The UK has pushed hard for the system over the years, welcoming a way to slash red tape for companies, allowing them to apply for a patent in just one country rather than each of the 28 member states, and to get protection for their innovations across the EU.
The British Chambers of Commerce and its EU counterpart Eurochambres have written to the UK’s business secretary Greg Clark to encourage him to push ahead with the plan.
EU leaders have objected to some UK demands, rejecting what they refer to as ‘cherry picking’ of Brussels’ rules after BrexitCredit: OLIVIER HOSLET/EPA
The letter is significant because it shows that it is not just British companies which want to ‘cherry pick’ sections of EU law and co-operation to retain after Brexit – there is also substantial demand from their counterparts across the Channel to keep certain rules in place where regulations in the UK and the EU match, and where there is a clear benefit in terms of reducing red tape.
“Whether the UK is an EU member state or not and regardless of the terms agreed for future EU-UK relations, British businesses and the British economy can enjoy the benefits of a new, unified patent system. It is thus in the UK Government’s interests to be involved and engaged in the discussions and developments of this important new initiative,” said the letter to Mr Clark.
“This important reform of the European patent system is long overdue. Businesses have been waiting for 50 years and it is vital that the reform is now delivered without any further delay,” said the letter signed by Eurochambres chief Arnaldo Abruzzini and BCC director general Adam Marshall.
Mr Marshall added that the scheme will help boost UK exports after Brexit and so should be seen as an important part of Britain’s global business strategy.
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“Ratifying the Unified Patent Court Agreement is a no-brainer, as it would allow UK firms to protect their intellectual property in over two dozen countries with a single application, and reduce practical barriers to trade and export,” he said.
“As a longtime proponent of a Unified Patent, the UK government should commit to ratifying the agreement as soon as possible – and explore all avenues for the UK to continue to participate in the Unified Patent system after the UK leaves the EU.”
Mr Abruzzini said: “What better way to demonstrate a constructive and business oriented attitude to the negotiations on Article 50 and post Brexit relations?”
Countries working on the plan hoped it would be implemented by the end of this year.
The UK’s snap general election has delayed its plan to ratify the deal, however, and the business groups want to ensure the scheme does not lose steam as Brexit talks get underway in earnest in the weeks after the vote.
Although the decision is a matter for the next government, Lord Prior has been representing the UK at an EU competitiveness council event at which the topic of patents has been discussed.