UK's trans-Pacific partnership protects European patent work

UK solicitors may gain opportunities to practise under home title around the Pacific Rim, under a new agreement that safeguards our commitments to European patent agreements.
Illustration: Global Map showing member states of Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, CPTPP or TPP11. Pink highlighted member states include Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

The UK has reached an agreement in principle to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which will ensure the UK does not violate its commitments under European patent agreements.

Trans-Pacific opportunities for UK solicitors

The CPTPP is a free trade agreement that locks in the rights of lawyers to practice home country, international or third-party law under home title in all member states, namely:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Peru
  • Singapore
  • Vietnam

The agreement is expected to come into force later in 2023.

Potential threat to UK legal market and European patent work

There was concern that joining the CPTPP might cause difficulties for UK lawyers carrying out European patent work.

Accession could require the UK to violate its obligations under European patent agreements, because:

  • the CPTPP requires a 12-month grace period for disclosing information in a patent application by the patentee
  • the UK is already a party to the European Patent Convention (EPC) and Strasbourg Patent Convention (SPC), which have no equivalent provisions

Violating our obligations under the European patent framework could result in:

  • the UK losing the benefits of the agreement, which include simplified and cheaper patent application procedures and consistent patent rights
  • the UK legal market becoming less attractive to potential users

The Law Society was among the organisations pushing for the UK to remain compliant with its EPC and SPC obligations.

Putting protections in place

The Law Society was among the organisations pushing for the UK to remain compliant with its EPC and SPC obligations.

Thanks to a special provision in the UK’s accession protocol to the agreement, these issues have been resolved.

The protocol exempts the UK from having to apply the grace period until the EPC and SPC are amended to allow for an equivalent grace period.

The UK will therefore join the CPTPP without jeopardising its obligations under the EPC and SPC, protecting our position as a global legal centre and the ability of UK solicitors to carry out European patent work.

Find out more

Read our guides on doing legal business in member states of the CPTPP:

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