On 2 August 2016, the IPO published its first statement since the referendum that considers the impact Brexit will have on intellectual property rights. The main message is that the UK remains a part of the EU until the negotiations to exit are concluded. The statement provides little by way of substantive information as to the future, although it does at least express an intention to run consultations and welcomes views on how different intellectual property rights will be affected going forwards.
The statement covers trade marks, designs, patents, copyright, and IP enforcement, with the overall message being that there will still (post Brexit) be mechanisms for UK rights-holders to effectively protect their rights in the EU and that there will be no immediate changes. The IPO have recognised that clarity over the long-term coverage of current EU-wide rights, particularly EU trade marks and registered Community designs, needs to be provided, and that some kind of consultation process with rights-holders is likely.
In relation to patents, the IPO has confirmed that the British exit from the EU will not affect the current European patent system as it is governed by the European Patent Convention. It will still be possible to apply to the European Patent Office for a European patent that designates the UK. In addition, parties may of course apply to the UK IP Office for a GB patent. In addition, there is the proposed unitary patent and supra-national Unified Patent Court which were due to be introduced next year. But that project is now delayed and it is possible that it may never take effect.
The UK IPO also acknowledges that, in relation to copyright, the continued applicability of EU Directives and Regulations in the UK will be dependent upon the UK’s terms of exit.
Details of IP-related consultations in the context of Brexit have yet to be announced.