Editor's Note

Posted on 30 March 2021

Welcome to our annual review of patent law and practice developments in 2020.

Against the challenging backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of IP rights - as a potential barrier to access to vaccines and other technologies - has been increasingly under the spotlight, with calls to waive patent (and other forms of IP) protection, and to implement compulsory licensing to support the global response to the pandemic.

Our courts and IP Offices have, in the meantime, continued to operate highly effectively, albeit largely on a virtual basis, and so our Annual Review features a wealth of reports from across the last 12 months, including significant Supreme Court decisions relating to FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing and insufficiency, through to the ongoing development of the law and practice relating to patents and supplementary protection certificates. 

With the UK leaving the EU in January 2020, and the Brexit transition period coming to an end on New Year's Eve, many businesses will have spent 2020 also grappling with the impact of new frameworks on their operations. Whilst patents are not affected as much as other IP rights by Brexit – the European Patent Convention framework has no relationship with the EU – there have been implications for supplementary protection certificates and, of course, for the prognosis for the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court. The UK is now definitely out and not participating. Whilst it had looked like Germany would be progressing with its ratification, a further constitutional challenge looks set to cause more delay for this potentially ill-fated project. 

We hope you find our review of 2020's patent law and practice developments interesting. Please get in touch if you have any comments or queries.

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