The Intellectual Property Office in the UK (“IPO”) has issued a statement titled “IP and BREXIT: The facts”. There has been speculation on the future of many intellectual property laws following the recent UK referendum decision to leave the European Union. This statement considers the impact that Brexit could have on intellectual property rights and provides factual information on the international IP agreements that UK individuals and businesses can utilise in the future. The main points are summarised below.
For the moment, nothing has changed. While the UK remains a member state of the EU, UK rights holders can continue to protect their rights abroad, as the EU Trade Marks (“EUTM”) and Registered Community Designs (“RCD”) continue to be valid in the UK. The IPO will be consulting on long term coverage post Brexit. The IPO also notes that the UK is a member of the “Madrid System”, an international trade mark system which allows users to protect a trademark in up to 113 countries including the EU, which will continue regardless of leaving the EU.
As above, UK rights are currently protected due to EUTM and RCD continuing to be valid. In addition, the UK government is working on ratifying the Hague Agreement nationally. This provides a practical business solution for overseas design registrations, allowing up to 100 designs to be registered in over 65 territories by way of one joint application. It is hoped that this service will be introduced in 2017. Protection for unregistered designs will continue to exist through the UK unregistered design right.
Going forwards, the government will also be exploring various options, welcoming views and holding consultations in order to find the best way to ensure long term protection of EU trademarks and designs post Brexit.
The referendum result will not affect UK businesses' ability to apply to the European Patent Office (“EPO”) for patent protection. It is also still possible at present to obtain patents from the EPO which apply in the UK and currently existing European patents remain effective in the UK. The UK remains a Contracting Member State of the Unified Patent Court for the time being meaning that we are able to be a part of the decision making process in this area.
Until Brexit, UK copyright laws will continue to comply with EU copyright directives. However, the eventual effect of Brexit on UK copyright law is uncertain, as this will depend on the terms of the UK's future relationship with the EU. However, the UK is also a party to a number of international treaties protecting UK copyrights worldwide and these will be unaffected by Brexit.
The IPO clearly states that the UK will continue to play a comprehensive role in IP enforcement rights within the EU, including the on-going review of the Enforcement Directive and the European Commission’s work on tackling infringement on a commercial scale.
The main message from the IPO is that the UK remains a member state of the EU until negotiations to exit the Union are concluded and so the current system will remain unchanged for the immediate future. The statement does not provide concrete guidance as to what intellectual property law in the UK will look like post Brexit, but it does provide an overall picture of the current situation and expresses the intention to run consultations in order to find the best solution for the UK intellectual property right protection in the post–Brexit climate.