As our clients and colleagues will no doubt be aware, the population of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a referendum held at the end of last week. This has caused considerable uncertainty for businesses all over the world.

However, it is important to note that this referendum decision will have no short term consequences for the status of intellectual property rights in the UK and EU. Three factors will ensure that for the foreseeable future there will be no change for our Australian clients who hold IP rights in the UK or EU, or who intend to apply for them in coming months.

1. The European Patent Convention is not part of the EU

Britain’s departure from the European Union, when it occurs, will have no effect on the existing European Patent Convention. The EPC is an entirely separate agreement, unrelated to the EU. The EPC already includes a number of countries in Europe who are not members of the EU, and there is no reason to believe that the UK will cease to be part of this Convention. As such, it will continue to be possible to attain patent protection in the UK by filing a European application through the EPO.

2. Britain’s exit from the EU will take a considerable time to effect

The referendum held last week was not in itself legally binding. The formal, two year, legal process by which Britain will leave the European Union has not yet been initiated and is unlikely to begin before October at the earliest. The internal legislative and administrative complexity for the UK Government involved in exit, as well as the foreign policy complexity of negotiations between the UK and its partners in the EU and beyond is unprecedented. As such it is highly likely that the final process of exit will take longer than the two years anticipated in the formal treaty.

The EU Trade Marks and Registered Designs regimes are part of European Union agreements. As such, it is possible that these may be affected by the UK’s exit at some point in the future. However, the UK will remain a full part of the European Union until negotiations are completed. Until that time the existing EU trade marks and registered designs regimes will continue to apply. For the foreseeable future it will therefore continue to be possible to attain trade mark and registered design protection in the UK by filing an application through the EUIPO.

3. Existing IP rights will undoubtedly be respected

As part of the long process of leaving the Union, it is undoubtedly the case that the UK Government will make arrangements to ensure that trade marks and registered designs which currently cover the UK and were granted under the EU regime will be given a means by which they can have continuing or corresponding effect after exit. As the details of this process become clearer we will distribute further bulletins to keep our subscribers informed, and we will work closely with every one of our clients who holds these rights individually to ensure that they enjoy on-going protection.

Fisher Adams Kelly Callinans will continue to advise and act on behalf of our Australian clients in all aspects of patent, trade mark and design protection across the EU including the UK. We will stay abreast of the relevant legal developments in close detail, and will ensure that we keep our clients and subscribers up to date with any important changes.