Following a referendum 23 June 2016, the UK has voted to exit the European Union (EU), an outcome coined “BREXIT”. So what impact does BREXIT have on intellectual property (IP) in the UK? The short answer is there is no immediate impact.
Following the referendum result the British Parliament will now consider how and when to proceed. The UK’s exit from the EU will be negotiated over at least the next two years, and during that time the UK will remain a member of the EU. EU legislation will therefore remain in effect for the UK and no changes to any existing IP legislation are expected. Furthermore, during that time UK Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys should be able to practice as normal.
Following the UK’s exit from the EU, it will still be possible to obtain patent protection in the UK through the various systems currently in place, including via a patent application before the European patent Office (EPO). The UK will remain a member state of the European Patent Convention since that is completely independent of the EU. So BREXIT should not impact how to obtain patent protection in the UK.
However, the UK’s exit will result in a number of changes to trade mark and design law. Community Trade Marks and Registered Designs automatically cover all EU member countries. Additional legislation will be required if the protection afforded by such unitary rights is to continue to extend to the UK. Provisions relating to Community Trade Marks and Registered Designs, which currently extend to the UK, are expected be made to ensure continuity of rights, and there is nothing to suggest that any existing rights will be lost. Going forward it will still be possible to obtain UK Trade Marks and UK Designs via applications to the UK Intellectual Patent Office.
The UK leaving the EU may impact the proposed Unitary Patent system and the Unified Patent Court (UPC). The UK is one of the jurisdictions required to ratify the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court and London is one of the agreed locations for the UPC. The future of the UPC is unclear at this stage, with a delay in ratification to be expected.
So, whilst BREXIT will no doubt cause uncertainty in a number of areas over the next few years, the mechanisms for obtaining IP protection in the UK should remain largely unaffected over that period. Where BREXIT does impact IP rights in the UK, alternative mechanisms should be available for securing future protection and no existing rights will be lost.