The people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union (EU). This vote for ‘Brexit’ triggers the start of a complicated political and legal process to divorce the UK from the rest of the EU. However IP right owners should rest assured that there will be no immediate effect on their existing registered IP rights and in some cases no effect at all.

Patents in Europe are national rights, not EU-wide, since the Regulations relating to unitary European patents have not yet entered into force. Brexit will have no effect on the maintenance and enforcement of patents granted for European countries. The European Patent Office is not an EU institution and Pearl Cohen’s European Patent Attorneys in London will continue to represent clients before the European Patent Office.

Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs) for medicinal or plant protection products will remain valid and enforceable in the UK, and new SPCs can be obtained, until Brexit takes effect. Moreover, Brexit should have no effect on the existing SPC system in other European countries. However, since SPCs are rights that are derived from EU Regulations they will not continue in their current form in the UK post-Brexit. We fully anticipate that the UK will legislate to allow for the maintenance of existing SPCs and to introduce a regime for new SPCs in the UK.

Trade Marks and Designs registered for the whole of the EU remain valid and enforceable until the agreement of provisions to give them continuing or separate national effect, and furthermore they are still obtainable until Brexit formally takes effect.

Going forward:

Eligibility to participate in the proposed UPC and unitary patent is only open to EU member states, so it seems very probable that the Brexit decision will mean the UK will not participate in the UPC project and unitary patents will not be valid in the territory of the UK. However, as European Patent Attorneys, we shall continue to prosecute patents at the EPO, including “classical” European patents and the new unitary patents for relevant participating states. EU registered trademarks and designs are likely to be converted to separate national rights for the UK, and in future separate national registrations will need to be obtained. We shall be monitoring these developments as they unfold and shall keep you informed, taking the necessary steps to ensure maintenance of our clients' interests.