This guide offers information on the future of intellectual property (IP) laws following the decision that the UK will leave the European Union (EU).
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) continues to contribute fully to the government’s work towards exiting the EU. It has a clear goal of ensuring an effective IP regime that supports UK innovation and creativity. The UK will remain one of the best places in the world to obtain and protect your IP.
In March 2017 the Prime Minister formally started the process of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The Government introduced the Withdrawal Bill on 13 July 2017. The Withdrawal Bill is designed to ensure that the UK exits the EU with certainty, continuity, and control. This is an essential Bill in the national interest.
The UK system for protecting trade mark rights is not affected by the decision to leave the EU. While the UK remains a full member of the EU then EU Trade Marks (EUTM) continue to be valid in the UK. When the UK leaves the EU, an EUTM will continue to be valid in the remaining EU member states.
We recognise that owners of existing EU trade marks want clarity over the coverage of those rights when the UK leaves the EU. We continue to engage closely with right holders and a wide range of stakeholders on this issue.
The government is looking at various options and we are discussing the best way forward with users of the system.
When the UK has left the EU, UK businesses will still be able to register an EU trade mark, which will cover all remaining EU Member States.
In addition, the UK is a member of the international trade mark system called the Madrid System. This allows users to file one application, in one language, and pay one set of fees to protect trade marks in up to 113 territories including the EU.
UK businesses will continue to have access to the Madrid System when looking to protect their trade marks.
Rights of representation
The UK government recognises the concerns IP professionals have about their future right to represent clients before the EU Intellectual Property Office. We welcome views on how to address these concerns and are involving stakeholders in consideration of these issues.
The UK system for protecting registered and unregistered designs is not affected by the decision to leave the EU.
While the UK remains a full member of the EU, Registered Community Designs (RCD) continue to be valid in the UK. When the UK leaves the EU, an RCD will cover the remaining EU member states.
We recognise that owners of existing RCDs want clarity over the coverage of those rights when the UK leaves the EU. We continue to engage closely with right holders and a wide range of stakeholders on this issue.
The government is exploring various options and are discussing these with users of the system to establish the best way forward.
Once the UK leaves the EU, UK businesses will still be able to register a Community Design, which will cover all remaining EU Member States.
The Hague System
The government has ratified the Hague Agreement and has joined this international system in a national capacity.
The Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs allows for registration of up to 100 designs in over 66 territories through filing one single international application.
While the UK remains a member of the EU, designs, including patterns, may be automatically protected in the EU as ‘unregistered community designs’. This gives your design 3 years protection from copying.
Unregistered protection for designs will continue to exist through the UK unregistered design right and by using copyright. We are discussing options with designers and other users to ensure that the protection provided is fit for purpose.
The UK’s exit from the EU will not affect the current European patent system, which is governed by the (non-EU) European Patent Convention.
UK businesses can continue to apply to the European Patent Office for patent protection which will include the UK. Existing European patents covering the UK are also unaffected.
European patent attorneys based in the UK will continue to be able to represent applicants before the EPO see EPO and CIPA: no impact of Brexit on UK membership of EPO for more information.
Supplementary Protection Certificates
While the UK remains a full member of the EU, businesses can continue to apply for and be granted Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs) for patented pharmaceutical and plant protection products using the current SPC system. Existing UK SPCs granted under that system continue to be valid.
Once the UK leaves the EU, UK businesses will still be able to apply for SPCs in all remaining EU Member States under the existing system.
The government is exploring options for SPC protection in the UK after we leave the EU.
Unified Patent Court
The UK remains a Signatory State of the Unified Patent Court at present. On 28 November 2016, the UK government confirmed its intention to proceed with arrangements to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement.
Secondary legislation in the form of an Order on Privileges and Immunities for the Unified Patent Court was laid before Westminster in June 2017 and before Holyrood in August 2017. This is the final legislative step in the UK’s ratification of the [UPC] Agreement. We are working with the Preparatory Committee to bring the UPC into operation as soon as possible.
While the UK remains in the EU, our copyright laws will continue to comply with the EU copyright directives, and we will continue to participate in EU negotiations. The continued effect of EU Directives and Regulations following our exit from the EU will depend on the terms of our future relationship.
The UK is a member of a number of international treaties and agreements. This means that UK copyright works (such as music, films, books and photographs) are protected around the world. This will continue to be the case following our exit from the EU.
The UK is widely seen as a world leader in enforcement of IP. By working in partnership with law enforcement and industry, the government can deliver an IP environment where legitimate businesses thrive and consumers are protected.
For the time being the UK’s enforcement framework remains unchanged. We are still part of the EU and we will still play a part at the EU Observatory, and in bodies like Europol. The process for intercepting counterfeits and other infringing goods at the border remains unchanged.
The UK remains a part of the EU until the negotiations to exit conclude. We continue to play an active role in the review of the Enforcement Directive, and the Commission’s work on tackling commercial-scale infringement.
Exhaustion of IP rights
While the UK remains a full member of the EU, intellectual property rights remain exhausted after the first sale of a good, with the right holders permission, within the territory of the European Economic Area (EEA).
The government is exploring options for a future exhaustion regime that is best for the UK once we have left the EU. We recognise that any change to the existing regime could affect UK businesses. We continue to engage closely with rights holders and a wide range of stakeholders on this issue.
The IPO is keen to hear your views on these issues. Please speak to your usual contact or email EUenquiries@ipo.gov.uk and we will ensure your comments are taken onboard.