United Kingdom has now triggered Article 50 in order to formally exit the European Union. The question now is how this will affect intellectual property owners?
First of all there will be a two-year transition period and during this period the EU and the UK government will negotiate the exit from EU. During this two-year period the IP-related laws regarding patents, trademarks, designs and patents will remain largely unchanged.
UK´s participation in the existing European Patent System will not be affected by Brexit as this system exists independently of the EU. The UK will unless otherwise decided by the UK and EU not participate in the Unitary patent scheme (UPS) to come into force in the beginning of 2018. This system will allow a party to file for a so called unified patent that will have effect in all EU member states. This means that the patent will grant protection in all 25 member states of the EU Union based on one application. There will furthermore be a single fee regime and a single patent court system (UPC)
After Brexit, the UK will not be part of the EU Trade Mark (“EUTM”) system anymore and since this system is only available to EU Member States this means that the EUTM system will no longer apply in the UK. It is, however, likely that some kind of transitional provisions would be put in place in order to allow trademark owners to convert their EU trademarks into national UK registrations and maybe even be able to retain the original priority date.
It is clear that existing European trademark registrations will continue to apply in other European Member States. It is however important to notice that European trademarks that are only used in the UK will after Brexit be vulnerable to a non-use revocation as UK is no longer part of the system. It will therefore be important to put the trademark to use in other European countries.
In relation to copyright protection the situation will remain largely the same as before Brexit as copyright law is not fully harmonized in the EU at this moment. Copyright is today protected through national laws combined with a set of international treaties that set minimal rules of protection.
The situation right now is that as a member of EU, UK has ratified the Hague design system and they are therefore entitled to secure international design registration. After the Brexit UK will have the possibility to join the Hague Design system on its own and will thus assure that UK business will still be able to benefit from the Hague design system. If UK do not join the system on its own this will of course not be the case.
The position in regard to registered community designs will be very similar to the situation regarding trademarks. Existing designs in the UK will cease to exist and new filing will no longer cover UK and should be replaced by national filings.