IP and Brexit: The Future of Intellectual Property Law
There has been much commentary and speculation on the potential impact on intellectual property rights following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. To help inform the debate the UK Intellectual Property Office has recently published a guide on the future of UK intellectual property (IP) laws following the Brexit vote.
Aim of the guidance
The guide is helpfully divided into separate sections for different IP rights, namely trade marks, designs, patents, copyright and the enforcement of IP rights.
- Trade Marks
Currently, while the UK remains a full member of the EU, EU Trade Marks (EUTMs) remain valid in the UK. Once the UK has ‘Brexited’, UK businesses can continue to register EUTMs which will ensure protection of their trade marks in the remaining EU Member States.
For EUTM rights holders that wish to ensure their current registrations provide protection in the UK, the position is less clear. The UK Government is currently considering available options. It is thought, but has yet to be confirmed, that a system will be put in place to ensure that holders of EUTMs will have their rights extended to include the UK once the UK has left the EU.
The international trade mark system, the Madrid System, remains available for use by UK businesses enabling users to protect trade marks in up to 113 territories (including the EU) through the filing of a single central application. The UK’s membership of the Madrid System will not be affected by Brexit.
The IPO is also inviting comments on how UK IP professionals can secure rights to represent their clients before the EU Intellectual Property Office.
As with trade marks, for so long as the UK remains a full member of the EU, Registered Community Designs (RCDs) remain valid in the UK. Following Brexit, UK businesses will be able to continue to register RCDs securing protection in the remaining EU Member States.
Once again, the UK Government is considering the long-term coverage of RCDs, including how existing RCDs might extend to the UK.
Additionally, the UK Government has confirmed its intention to ratify the Hague Agreement. This will provide businesses with the opportunity to register up to 100 designs in over 65 territories through one single international application.
Unregistered designs will continue to be protected through the UK unregistered design right.
The European Patent Convention is not impacted by Brexit. Brexit has no effect on the ability of UK businesses to apply to the European Patent Office (EPO) for patent protection or to obtain patents from the EPO which apply to the UK. The validity of existing European patents covering the UK will not be affected.
Additionally, the UK is still a Contracting Member State of the Unified Patent Court (UPO) and the IPO foresees no immediate changes on this front. Therefore, at the present time UK ratification of the Unified Patent Court still remains necessary.
UK copyright laws will continue to comply with EU copyright directives while the UK remains a member of the EU. The terms of exit negotiations will dictate the legal effect of EU directives and regulations post-Brexit. The IPO notes that UK copyright works will be protected around the world even after the UK leaves the EU as the UK is a member of numerous international treaties and agreements.
There have been no changes to the UK’s enforcement framework (for the moment). The process for intercepting counterfeits and other infringing goods at the UK border also remains unchanged.
Contact MacRoberts LLP for advice on Brexit
MacRoberts’ have extensive experience in relation to intellectual property issues and can advise businesses on managing their IP portfolio and adapting to changes that need to be made in the future due to Brexit.