On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU). This has resulted in uncertainty as to the future of UK intellectual property rights. Shortly after the vote, we published an initial article about “Brexit” and the future of UK and EU IP rights, which is available here.

The UK Intellectual Property Office has since released some predictions regarding UK IP rights after the UK formally leaves the EU, these are summarised below.

Currently, the UK is still part of the EU and as such UK IP rights remain unaltered. There is a period of (at least) two years during which the status quo will hold while “Brexit” terms are negotiated. No changes to IP rights will occur until the UK formally leaves the EU.

Trade marks

Present
EU trade marks will remain valid in the UK until the UK formally exits the EU.

Future
The government is considering various options to ensure that registered trade marks remain protected after the leave. The office welcomes views on how to address concerns and is consulting with stakeholders.

The UK is a member of the “Madrid System”. This is an international trade mark registration system which allows a single international application to cover up to 113 countries, including the EU. Furthermore, only one fee is required. The UK’s membership of the Madrid System will not be affected by the leave.

UK businesses will still be entitled to register EU trade marks, providing protection for trade marks within the remaining EU member states.

Designs

Present
Registered Community Designs remain valid in the UK, until the leave takes place. .

Future
UK businesses will still be eligible to register a Community Design which covers all remaining EU Member States.

Currently UK residents are able to apply to register a design under the “Hague Agreement” by virtue of EU membership. The UK Intellectual Property Office has confirmed the government’s intention to ratify the “Hague Agreement” in a national capacity so registrations under the agreement will still be able to take place once the UK has left the EU. The Hague Agreement is an international design registration system which allows a design to be registered in over 65 countries through one single international application.

An unregistered design will remain protectable in the UK automatically upon creation.

Patents

Present
UK businesses can still apply to the European Patent Office for patent protection. The UK remains a Contracting Member State of the Unified Patent Court and participates in meetings. Current European patents which extend to the UK are also unaffected.

Future
There will be no immediate changes and existing EU patents which cover the UK will remain valid. The European Patent Convention will not be affected by Brexit as it is separate from the EU. Consequently, EU patents certified in the UK will not be affected by the leave. This also extends to the granting of EU patents and their validity in the UK.

Patents will remain obtainable through the European Patent Office and will continue to apply in the UK.
The UK's membership in the World IP Organization is not connected to its membership in the EU. Therefore Patent Cooperation Treaty applications will still protect rights in both the UK and EU. Additionally, EU regulations will not govern the enforcement of patents in the UK after the leave.

Copyright

Present
As the UK is currently a part of the EU, their copyright law still adheres with EU copyright law. In addition, the UK will continue to engage in EU negotiations.

Future
Once the UK leaves EU, the effect of the EU Directives and Regulations will depend on future terms yet to be negotiated.

Regardless of the terms of the exit, the UK is part of multiple international treaties and agreements and as a result, UK copyright works such as music, cinematography, and literature will continue to benefit from worldwide protection.

The UK will continue to participate in the review of the Enforcement Directive and the EU Commission’s work relating to commercial infringement. The process of preventing counterfeits and other infringing goods at the border will not be modified. Additionally, the UK continues its role at the EU Intellectual Property Office’s observatory and in bodies like Europol.