The United Kingdom will be withdrawing from the European Union (EU) on 29 March 2019. At this stage, a ‘hard’ Brexit would see no transition period with any changes taking place on exit whilst a ‘soft’ Brexit would implement a transition period until 31 December 2020. New Zealand businesses that operate in these jurisdictions should plan for any changes that will affect their registered intellectual property rights.

Registered Trade Marks, Designs and Plant Variety Rights

At the end of the transition period or from 29 March 2019, the expectation is that all existing EU Registered Trade Marks, Community Designs and Plant Variety Rights will be converted into UK specific trade mark and design registrations and plant variety rights. They will accordingly remain in full force and effect in the UK. EU Registered Trade Marks, Community Designs and Plant Variety Rights will remain in force in the EU. They will then respectively need to be maintained separately in each jurisdiction.

If you are planning to operate both in the UK and the EU, your immediate priority should be to apply for protection in the EU for the best chance of gaining registration before 29 march 2019 or the end of the transition period. You will be able to claim early priority for a UK registration based on your pending EU application.

Patents

Brexit will not have much of an impact on patents. This is because the European Patent Office was created under the European Patent Convention, independently from the EU.

Geographical Indications (GI)

Soft Brexit

EU GIs will benefit from “at least the same level of protection” in the UK “unless and until” a new agreement between the EU and the UK enters into force and becomes applicable.

Hard Brexit

A new UK-specific GI scheme broadly equivalent to the EU one will be established. However, the UK may no longer recognise EU GIs. Producers will need to apply for a UK specific GI.