In July 2018 the government published its White Paper on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
The proposals aim to deliver a balance between seizing the opportunities of global trade and respecting the deeply integrated EU supply chains which have developed over the last 40 years.
Only a limited number of proposals specifically relate to intellectual property and related cybersecurity issues. These are as follows.
Within its proposals on agriculture, food and fisheries products, the White Paper acknowledges the specific protections that Geographical Indications (GIs) can provide in the protection of registered products against imitation.
GIs also protect consumers from being misled about the quality or geographical origin of goods; Scotch whisky, Scottish farmed salmon and Welsh beef and lamb get a special mention.
The White Paper confirms that the UK wants to establish its own GI scheme after exit, providing a 'clear and simple' set of rules to protect UK GI's. This will be consistent with, but go beyond, the requirements of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property. The scheme will be open to new applications from both UK and non-UK applicants.
Unified Patent Court and unitary patent system
The White Paper recognises that intellectual property is one particular area where the UK and EU economies are closely linked. For this reason, it will explore options to ensure close cooperation after exit, including participation in the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and unitary patent system. The UK will work with other contracting states to ensure that the UPC Agreement can continue on a firm legal basis.
In the context of security, the White Paper sets out an assessment of threats common to the UK and the EU, including the impact of technology, especially cyber threats and wider technological developments. Unprecedented depth and breadth of cooperation will be required to avoid the exploitation of UK and European networks and devices gathering intelligence or intellectual property.
In addition to work already being undertaken, the UK proposes even closer collaboration between the UK and the Network and Information Security (NIS) Cooperation Group, Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) Network and the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA).
Businesses will be pleased that the White Paper recognises the importance of arrangements on the future co-operation on intellectual property in order to provide rights holders with confidence and security when operating in and across the UK and EU. However, the White Paper proposals are short on detail and no mention is made of the government's plans for trade marks or copyright.
In relation to EU trade marks and registered Community designs, the UK IPO has since confirmed that, upon Brexit, these will be protected automatically in the UK and at no charge. This is a welcome development and will provide some certainty to EU rights holders that UK protection will not be lost post-Brexit. Further details are set out in the UK IPO's document 'IP and BREXIT: The facts'.
The EU's response will obviously be critical in determining which of the UK's proposals are taken to the next stage.