On 23 June 2016, the UK public voted to leave the European Union (EU). Despite voting to leave the EU, the UK will continue to abide by EU treaties and laws for at least the next two years, or for as long as it takes for withdrawal agreements to be negotiated and new terms established with the 27 remaining EU member countries.

During these next few years it will become clearer how the impact of leaving the EU will affect European intellectual property rights. Of particular significance is whether the UK decides to join other trade agreements, such as the European Free Trade Agreement, or be a part of the European Economic Area.

This vote does not affect the ability of Finnegan to represent its clients in Europe and the UK.

Below is a summary of what this vote means for IP rights:

European Patents

Nothing changes. The outcome of the referendum has no effect on the UK’s membership of the European Patent Convention (EPC). The European Patent Office (EPO) is not an EU institution and will still be able to grant European patents that can be validated in the UK. Representation rights of British European patent attorneys before the EPO remain unaffected.

UK Patents

The UK leaving the EU does not affect the European patent system, nor does it affect the UK as a party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Direct UK patent applications and PCT-UK national phase patent applications can still be filed at the UKIPO.

European Trademarks and Designs

Until withdrawal from the EU is completed, all European rights will continue to have effect in the UK. Whilst the UK forms its position independent from the EU it is expected that a transitional procedure will be negotiated which will enable EU trade marks and Community designs to be converted into UK national registrations.

UK Trade Marks and Designs

The decision to leave the European Union does not affect UK national intellectual property rights.

It is expected that any provision established to convert EU rights into UK national rights is likely to re-set the period during which use must be made of a mark to prevent vulnerability to cancellation of a trade mark on the basis of non-use. This will allow rights holders with the intent to use marks in the UK, who had previously relied upon use elsewhere in the EU to maintain the validity of their rights, to commence use of the mark.