Welcome to our annual review of patent law and practice developments.
2019 was a year in which patents became mainstream news. In the run-up to the UK General Election, the Labour Party proposed creating a publicly owned entity to make certain drugs available that the NHS couldn't afford, which was claimed to be largely due to patent protection. Suffice to say, the Party’s defeat at the ensuing poll means that this policy will not come to light.
What the election did resolve, however, was that the UK would leave the EU at the end of January 2020, albeit the status quo will remain until the end of 2020 as a result of the transition period provided for in UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement. And now, Brexit has signalled the end of the UK’s involvement with the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court, with the Government recently confirming that the UK will no longer seek to participate. Of course this assumes that the project gets off the ground: at the time of writing the German Constitutional Court’s decision on whether the UPC is constitutionally legitimate under German law is awaited. Reports suggest that the decision may be delivered early this year and, assuming that the complaint is dismissed, we can expect Germany to ratify the UPC at some point in 2020. However, the fate of the project remains on the edge.
Another patent issue which caught the attention of the mainstream press was the Supreme Court’s decision in Unilever v. Shanks (reviewed in this summary) where the applicant, Mr Shanks, successfully established – after a 13 year battle - an entitlement to compensation from Unilever after the court held that his contribution to the invention in issue fulfilled the statutory “outstanding” test.
Looking forward to what’s to come in 2020 – and Brexit aside - SEP owners and implementers await with keen interest the Supreme Court’s views on the legitimacy, or otherwise, of global FRAND licences in the ground-breaking Unwired Planet v Huawei case. It promises to be an interesting judgment, and we will report on it in due course.
We hope you enjoy reading this review of 2019. Please get in touch if you have any comments or queries.