July 2016 News

Brexit – so what about intellectual property?

As you will have noticed, the UK voted to leave the EU. This will have a considerable impact in a range of areas, not least intellectual property. So the good news is that there is only one isolated area of intellectual property where any urgent action is needed.

Design Protection

That one area is with respect to design protection. The UK and the EU have parallel systems for protecting designs in the short term, without having to register them. These are useful systems, but are “closed” in that the EU system is only available to designers with a presence in the EU, and the UK system is only for UK designers together with designers from other specified countries (including the EU). If the UK leaves then designers based here will lose EU-wide protection for their unregistered designs, and if the UK removes the EU from its list of countries then EU-based designers will lose protection in the UK.

Fortunately, the remedy for this is simple – register the design! UK companies who were relying on the EU-wide unregistered right should consider whether to register the design at the EU intellectual property office, bearing in mind that you have six months from the first disclosure of the design in which to do so. Those within the EU but outside the UK should consider registering the design in the UK. We can help with both, and the cost of doing so is not large.


As regards patents, nothing will change with regard to the process for applying for patents. The European Patent Office is not an EU body, so our membership will continue regardless. We will still be able to help applicants file and prosecute applications in the EPO in exactly the same way as we have since the EPO opened.

Likewise, enforcement of patents will probably not now change. There were changes afoot in the form of the Unified Patent Court, a single patent enforcement court for most of Europe. That cannot now proceed in its current form – the UPC agreement required that only EU countries could ratify it, and that it could only proceed when ratified by a minimum set of countries that included the UK. So it is now a logical impossibility for the court to proceed. We can expect the EU to look again at the agreement at some point, but the changes proposed can be expected to be put on hold and will not apply to the UK.


In trade marks, the position is less clear. Many trade marks are protected in the UK via the EU IPO – the single EU registration body for trade marks. However, the UK still has its own Trade Marks Registry. We will have to wait for an official pronouncement as to the position, but the likely outcome will be either that the EU marks prior to our eventual exit date are automatically applicable in the UK, or that EU registrations can be re-registered in the UK retaining their seniority.

In the meantime, we can still help applicants with EU trade mark filings, and do not advise making any changes to current practices until the UK’s position has been decided.

Naturally, if you have any queries then do get in touch.

You can contact us on +44(0)1494 422626.

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