On 29 March, the UK government notified the EU that it was invoking Article 50. There is now a two year time limit for the UK and EU to reach an agreement (extensions may be agreed). After this period, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will take effect.
What does this mean?
For the time being it is still “business as usual”. The UK remains a member of the EU and IP rights remain unchanged: EU trade marks and Registered Community Designs continue to provide protection in all 28 member states. That is also the case for any new applications filed after 29 March.
Will this affect IP strategy?
The way the EU and UK IP Offices will deal with the UK’s eventual departure has yet to be finalised. The consensus view is that there will be some sort of transitional provision allowing for existing EU-wide IP rights to be “converted” into a continuing EU right covering the remaining 27 states, along with a “new” UK right, backdated to the original filing date, ensuring continuity of protection.
We agree and are not currently advising any changes in filing strategy.
We do not know whether existing right holders will have to pay a fee for the “converted” UK application, but our advice is that there is likely to be a need to budget for some sort of IP outlay at the end of the negotiation process. Going forward, businesses will need to consider whether they will want a UK trade mark/design AND an EU right, since two applications (and hence two sets of fees) will be payable once the UK has exited the EU.
In short, nothing has yet changed, but the countdown has begun.