On 23 June the UK voted to leave the European Union, creating widespread uncertainty over the economic futures of both the UK and the EU. Here we answer the immediate questions about what impact the “Brexit” has on your IP rights.

What do I have to do now?

Nothing. The UK is still a member of the EU and will be until it agrees the terms of its departure with the rest of the EU. This unravelling process will involve complex negotiations that will take at least two years. Many commentators are predicting that it will take a lot longer. In the meantime, any European IP rights will continue to exist just as they did before 23 June.

What happens to my European patents?

Nothing. European patents are administered by the European Patent Office (EPO), which is not an EU institution. The process of filing European patent applications at the EPO will continue exactly as it does now and those European patent applications will still cover the UK. The process of validating European patents granted by the EPO in each country where you wish the European patent to take effect (including the UK) will continue exactly as it does now.

What happens to my EU trade marks?

Nothing at the moment. EU trade marks still cover the UK and any new EU filings will continue to cover the UK. The fate of the UK rights to an EU registration in the longer term is yet to be decided. Options may include the opportunity to convert EU registrations into national UK rights, retaining the original application date. It is possible that other options will also be put on the table. We will keep you informed of what processes are adopted.

In the meantime, if you are considering filing a new EU trade mark, please talk to our team about the possibility of also filing the new trade mark directly in the UK.

What happens to my EU designs?

As with EU trade marks, EU designs currently still have effect in the UK and will do so until the UK eventually leaves the EU. When that happens, any EU designs will no longer cover the UK. The UKIPO is expected to propose arrangements for the transition of existing EU designs into equivalent UK designs over the next two years. We will keep you informed of what steps (if any) need to be taken in order to do this.

In the meantime, if you are considering filing a new EU design, please talk to our team about the possibility of also filing the new design directly in the UK.

What happens to the Unitary Patent?

The European Unitary Patent was predicted to come into force in late 2016 or early 2017. This will almost certainly now be delayed. The Unitary Patent is an alternative way to validate European patents granted by the EPO in certain EU member states. As a result, when the UK eventually leaves the EU, a Unitary Patent will not cover the UK. Instead, European patents granted by the EPO will still need to be validated at the UKIPO if they are to take effect in the UK.

Despite the significant political upheaval Brexit has caused, it is business as usual for European IP rights.