The European Union (EU) has officially cleared the way for Britain to withdraw from the EU. The divorce date is set for 31 January 2020.

However, for intellectual property (IP) rights, nothing will change straight away. This is because both sides have agreed to an 11-month transition period, which is currently scheduled to end on 31 December 2020 (though extensions may be granted). During this transition period, EU law will continue to operate as it currently does in the UK.

This means all EU trade marks and registered community designs continue to apply in the UK during the transition period. At the end of the transition period:

  • the UK will transfer all registered EU trade marks and designs into equivalent UK rights
  • owners of pending EU trade marks or designs will have a period of nine months to apply for the same protection in the UK.

As the European Patent Office is not an EU agency, Britian leaving the EU does not affect the current European patent system. So, European patents covering the UK are also unaffected.