Brexit - Likely Implications for IP Rights
The Brexit vote has no immediate effect on UK IP rights, but it will eventually require separate consideration when seeking to obtain rights within the European region...
The recent vote which favoured the United Kingdom leaving the European Union has opened up a range of options for legislative changes and the resultant consequences will affect many activities.
The current uncertainty about the likely changes also extends to the timeframe in which the changes will be effected. The Article 50 exit mechanism specifies that the UK would leave the EU at the earlier of the withdrawal agreement coming into force or two years after the date of its notification of withdrawal. However, this period can be extended by unanimous decision of the Council in agreement with the UK government. Given the complexity of the task many commentators consider that negotiations will take over two years and possibly up to 10 years.
Until the withdrawal agreement is finalised or comes into effect by default the current intellectual property rights in the UK and EU will remain unchanged by the vote.
Given that the European Patent Convention (EPC) is not part of the EU, UK businesses and individuals will still be able to file patents via the EPC. However, given that membership of the EU is necessary for the forthcoming Unitary Patent (and Unified Patent Court), EPC patents will need to continue being validated in the UK to have effect there.
In contrast, EU registered trade marks and designs currently automatically cover the United Kingdom. This path to obtaining such IP rights in the United Kingdom will no longer be available once the exit takes effect. Yet to be decided is what status such EU applications and registration prior to the exit taking effect will have after it takes effect. However, it would appear likely that a pragmatic solution will apply, such as transitional arrangements specifying that the rights will (automatically) convert into UK applications and registrations.