Holders of IP rights in Europe may be concerned about the consequences of the decision of the UK to leave the European Union (EU) in the historic referendum held on 23 June 2016. To use the words of Corporal Jones from the Dads Army comedy series, ‘Don’t Panic!’.

The effect of Brexit on various IP rights is summarized below:

Patents

  • European patents will not be affected by Brexit because the European Patent Convention (EPC) was established by an agreement outside the EU.
  • The proposed Unitary Patent and the Unitary Patent Court System will be delayed because the Unitary Patent Court agreement currently requires ratification by 13 signatory states, including the UK.

Trade Marks

  • We will not know the full effect of Brexit on EU trade mark registrations until the terms of Brexit have been finalized. This could take up to two years. Until then EU trade mark registrations will continue to be enforceable in UK.
  • It is possible that an EU trade mark registration may be split up into two parts, one covering UK and another covering the remaining EU countries.
  • Another possibility is that an EU trade mark registration will provide a right to seniority to apply for a UK trade mark registration.
  • The UK might also be able to negotiate a membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) which includes countries outside the EU, such as Norway and Iceland. This might enable the UK to negotiate remaining with the EU trade mark system.

Designs

  • As with trade marks, the full effect of Brexit on both registered and unregistered EU design rights will not be apparent until the terms of Brexit have been finalized.
  • In the meantime, existing EU design rights will continue to be enforceable in the UK.
  • When the terms of Brexit have been finalized, it is most unlikely that EU designs legislation will continue to apply to the UK, even if the UK emerges from Brexit as a member of the EEA.

The underlying message is that IP rights holders in Europe should ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. Watermark will be closely watching further developments in the UK negotiations with the EU following the Brexit vote, and with various attorneys qualified as UK and/or European Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys, is well placed to advise you in connection with your existing and future IP rights in UK and Europe.