As part of the UK Government’s preparations for a possible “hard Brexit”, it has published a set of guidance notes on how intellectual property rights would be affected if the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no deal. This is part of a series of technical notices being issued by the Government to assist businesses in their preparations, although it is widely anticipated that an agreement between the UK and EU will still be possible.
The UK Government has published guidance (www.gov.uk) on the likely issues which will arise with regard to GIs. If there is no deal, after 29 March 2019, the Government has confirmed that it will set up its own GI schemes which will be WTO TRIPS compliant, broadly mirror the current EU regime and be no more burdensome to producers.
It identifies, among others, the following issues:
A public consultation will be held to include the UK GI logo and appeals process. The protections will be similar to those enjoyed now by UK GI producers, with all 86 UK GIs given new UK GI status automatically. In the unlikely event of a no deal scenario, there are two issues for UK producers of GI products to consider:
- the use of a new UK logo on products marketed in the UK
- the preparation of an application for GI status in the EU, or other steps that producers may wish to take in order to protect product integrity – for example, applying for trade mark protection.
On this second point the guidance anticipates that all current UK GIs will continue to be protected by the EU’s GI schemes. If that does not occur producers might consider protecting their products by applying for EU collective marks or EU certification marks.
A further point is that the UK would no longer be required to recognise EU GI status. EU producers would be able to apply for UK GI status. The UK Government will be publishing guidance on the UK GI schemes in early 2019. This particular point has been highlighted by the EU negotiators as being very important and requires a clear resolution before a final deal is reached. We assume there is a concern, for example, that without a deal, in theory, ‘British Champagne’ may be a possibility.
The guidance advises that “further information on the new UK schemes will be published in the coming months. We aim to give businesses and individuals as much certainty as possible as soon as we can, and to ensure that any new requirements are not unduly burdensome.”