Recent figures released by the EU Intellectual Property Office show the continued popularity of EU Trade Marks (EUTMs) and Registered Community Designs (RCDs) . However, the statistics do suggest a marked shift in the behaviour of UK applicants.

Overall, filings of EUTM and RCD applications remain encouraging. The total number of EUTM applications filed in 2016 represents an increase of 3.7 per cent on the previous year, although applications filed by UK applicants declined for the first time since 2009. Filings in 2016 of 11,643 represent a drop of seven per cent and are the lowest number of EUTM filings from UK applicants since 2013. Nevertheless, this change in filing behaviour does not appear to have filtered through to applicants from other EU Member States, with only French and Polish applicants registering slight declines of 0.5% and 1.1% respectively for 2016. The drop in EU filings by UK applicants may suggest that UK businesses are starting to reconsider their export markets following the June 2016 Brexit referendum.

However, despite the number of RCD applications filed by UK applicants also falling slightly when compared with the previous year, 2016 represents the second highest number of design applications filed by UK applicants since it first became possible to register designs in the EU in 2003. The 2016 figures are just over one per cent down on the record 2015 figures, and remain over 55 per cent above the 2009 figures.

The top 20 most prolific UK filers of RCDs cover a very diverse selection of British companies, including well-known household names, such as Aston Martin and Dyson. Jimmy Choo, the world-famous designer of luxury footwear and accessories, held the top spot for the number of RCD applications filed by a UK applicant. The list of top UK-based EUTM filers for 2016 is equally wide-ranging. However, pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, LRC Products and The Boots Company dominate many of the top positions, confirming that comprehensive EU-wide protection remains a priority for that industry.

No matter what the future brings, Europe is likely to remain a principal market for UK businesses. EUTMs and RCDs provide an affordable and accessible way for UK businesses and designers to protect their efforts in the EU, although going forward companies must also ensure that their rights are adequately and effectively protected in the UK.