As you likely know, Brexit negotiations are underway, with the UK scheduled to withdraw from the EU on March 29, 2019. As a result of the withdrawal, all EU laws will cease to apply to the UK as of March 30, 2019 unless additional agreements or transitional processes are put into place before the scheduled exit.

While there have been ongoing negotiations between the UK and EU on various operational, legal and financial issues, the parties have not yet reached a transitional agreement for the treatment of trademarks and designs. As a result, the European Commission issued a Notice on December 1, 2017, reminding trademark owners to prepare for implications of the withdrawal in light of the considerable uncertainty that remains.

To date, the UK has benefited from the EU trademark system, which allows brand owners to secure protection for trademarks under a single registration across all 28 member states. However, the UK will no longer be able to avail itself of this unified system once Brexit is complete. Thus, in the absence of a transitional agreement that clearly outlines the treatment and scope of intellectual property rights, EU trademarks and Community designs will no longer extend to the UK as of March 30, 2019. Likewise, any existing seniority claims in EU marks based on national trademark rights in the UK will cease to have an effect in the EU as of March 30, 2019.

Despite the European Commission’s recent notice, negotiations between the EU and UK are ongoing and there are continued efforts towards reaching a resolution that avoids any potential disruption in trademark rights or priority dates. Indeed, the European Commission presented a position paper to the UK on September 20, 2017, recommending continued protection of EU rights in EU trademarks and Community designs in the UK. However, the UK government has yet to publish an official response.

Nonetheless, clients who are heavily active in the UK or EU may want to take precautions to bolster or secure trademark rights with additional filings in the event a transitional arrangement is not reached by the March 29, 2019 withdrawal date.