BRUSSELS Nov 28 Britain pleased and surprised
some of its European Union partners on Monday by pledging to
ratify a new, unified patent system for the bloc even though
London is about to leave the EU.
Slovak Economy Minister Peter Ziga, who chaired a meeting of
EU counterparts in Brussels, told reporters he was "very
pleased" that Britain had committed to be ready to ratify the
international agreement in the first half of next year.
Ratification by Britain, one of the EU's three biggest
economies, was a condition for the Unitary Patent Court (UPC) to
come into being and there had been concerns since June's Brexit
referendum that years of work could be undone if the British
government halted the process as it prepares to quit by 2019.
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Britain's minister for intellectual
property, said in a statement that the new patent system would
benefit firms across Europe, adding: "As long as we are members
of the EU, the UK will continue to play a full and active role."
She said Britain wants to maintain free trade and strike a
Brexit deal to let British firms "operate in" the EU's single
market: "But the decision to proceed with ratification (of the
UPC) should not be seen as pre-empting the UK's objectives or
position in the forthcoming negotiations with the EU."
Her statement also noted that the UPC, created by EU states,
was not an EU institution itself but an "international patent
court" whose judiciary includes British judges.
(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Richard Lough)