• British people head to the polls on 12 December in first UK election since 2017
  • With Brexit dominating national discussion, few UK political parties have IP policies
  • President of CITMA says, whatever way vote goes, future relationship with EU is key

The UK election campaign is in full swing, with the major parties sharing their policy platforms in the hopes of attracting the British electorate’s vote. However, when asked by WTR about their stance on various brand protection issues, most parties are silent.

This election was called by the UK government at short notice at the end of October (following another Brexit extension), with the vote planned for 12 December. The Conservative Party and the Labour Party are the two biggest UK political parties, with the former the governing party since the 2010 election. Other major national parties vying for a significant vote share include the  Liberal Democrats (which governed in coalition with the Conservative Party from 2010-2015) and the Brexit Party (which was formed earlier this year and recently agreed to stand down hundreds of candidates in Conservative-held seats).

The election comes at a turbulent time for the UK, with Brexit and debate over austerity cuts to public services (especially the National Health Service) at the forefront of discussion. In that environment, then, it is perhaps of little surprise that IP barely warrants a mention.

As we have done with previous UK elections, we reached out to each of the major parties to ask about their views and policy pledges around trademarks and IP. Only one party, the Liberal Democrats, responded in full – although a spokesperson for the Brexit Party confirmed that the party “doesn't have specific information related to policy in this area at present”.

Talking to WTR, the Liberal Democrat’s shadow secretary for Brexit, Tom Brake, said that his party “recognises the importance of protecting the intellectual property rights of creators for promoting innovation and creativity and improving competitiveness”. Expanding on that point, he said the crux of improving the UK’s IP environment is ensuring that the country remains in the European Union (with the party running on a ‘remain’ platform).

“A Liberal Democrat government will stop Brexit so that the UK can continue to work with our EU partners to ensure cooperation and alignment on issues of IP,” Brake adds. “We will maintain current standards of IP protection with continuing cooperation of enforcement of IP generated in the UK, and working within the EU to ensure the continuation of territorial licensing of rights.”

On top of that, Brake pledged that the Lib Dems will “invest in police” so they can more effectively combat all forms of crime “including piracy and counterfeiting” – again adding that remaining in the EU is a key part of that effectiveness: “Many of the challenges we face today are cross-border and affect our allies and neighbours too. Continued British leadership in Europol and access to the European Arrest Warrant will be essential in tackling these crimes. This is yet another reason why Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and keep the UK in the EU.”

Brexit – and specifically the UK’s future relationship with the EU – are at the forefront of everyone’s mind in the UK election, including from an IP perspective. Indeed, the president of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA), Tania Clark, tells WTR that the most important issue for trademark holders is “what happens post-Brexit”.

She adds: “It is vital for business that the UK continues to be in or closely aligned to the EU system for trademarks – this would benefit businesses in the UK and across the EU. This includes continued rights of representation before the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for UK chartered trademark attorneys. It is welcome that the previous government has assured holders of EU trademarks and designs that an equivalent UK right will be created on Brexit. It is essential that this is honoured. Ultimately, IP will be a vital part of future trade agreements, both with the EU and further afield. It is important the IP community is fully consulted, and we call on the new government to ensure this happens.”

For now, though, this is the extent of IP policy commitments on the part of the political parties we contacted (we will update this blog if other parties respond after publication). When it comes to the political issue regarded as having the most significant impact, little has changed since the ‘Leave the EU’ vote prevailed on 23 June 2016 – Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.

This article first appeared in World Trademark Review. For further information please visit https://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/corporate/subscribe