As the United Kingdom (UK) leaves the European Union (EU) today (31 January 2020), an obvious question to ask is: “What is the effect on European patents, designs and trademarks as the UK ceases to be an EU member state?”.

The short answer is simple: nothing.

Will the UK’s departure impact European patents and patent applications?

The European Patent Office (EPO) is established under the European Patent Convention (EPC) which is an international treaty independent of the EU. The UK will continue as an EPC member state.

Therefore nothing changes on the 31st of January.

Moreover, UK professional representatives and legal practitioners will continue representing their clients in proceedings before the EPO.

What happens to European trademarks and designs?

In contrast, EU trademarks and registered community designs are processed by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Unlike the EPO, the EUIPO is not independent of the EU.

Hence, the UK’s departure from the EU will impact European trademarks and designs.

However, the UK’s departure from the EU is subject to a transition period during which all EU laws and procedures remain in place. Unless extended by mutual agreement, this transition period is scheduled to end on 31 December 2020.

In the meantime, nothing changes in relation IP rights granted through the EUIPO.

Beyond the transition period, IP rights granted by the EUIPO will be cloned onto the UK registers, and we will continue to represent our clients in both the UK and Europe. We will provide regular updates regarding arrangements beyond the end of the transition period during the course of the year. But as for Brexit day itself, nothing changes.