Over three months have passed since the historic vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. What does this mean for current patent systems in Europe and their future? The Unitary Patent System and Unified Patent Court had been predicted to come into force in 2017, and it promised to be the biggest change in European patent practice since the European Patent Office (EPO) opened its doors almost 40 years ago. What now?

Currently, no action has been taken by the U.K. or EU to separate. This process will begin if the U.K. government triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets a deadline of two years, or longer if agreed by all EU states, to settle on the agreements between the EU and the U.K. as a nonmember state. If settlement isn’t reached by this time, then all EU treaties will cease to apply in the U.K. The U.K. prime minister has now suggested these formal steps should begin before April 2017 and shows no signs yet of going back on the referendum result. However, until the above-mentioned mechanism is triggered and deadline expired, with or without agreement, the U.K. remains a part of the EU and there is no change.

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