The UK and the EU recently agreed significant parts of the UK’s EU withdrawal agreement. These include many of the terms of the transitional period following the UK’s withdrawal, which means we now have greater certainty regarding the future treatment of those IP rights currently governed by EU law (notably EU trade marks and Community registered designs). In addition, the withdrawal agreement provides some long term reassurance for holders of EU IP rights by suggesting that no rights should be lost as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU.
The UK is due to leave the EU on 29th March 2019. However, a transition period until 31st December 2020 has recently been agreed. During this period there should be no change to EU IP rights in the UK, as EU law will continue to apply (despite the UK having left the EU).
After the transitional period, the withdrawal agreement states that EU IP rights “which have been registered or granted before the end of the transition period shall, without any re-examination” become comparable UK IP rights (Article 50(1)). This provision includes EU trade marks and Community registered designs. So this confirms our long held view that there is no intention for any IP rights to be lost as a result of the Brexit process.
Of course, these considerations affect only those rights governed by EU law. As the current patent system is not governed by EU law, that system will continue unchanged regardless of the arrangements for Brexit. Indeed, the European Patent Office (EPO) is a separate international body, so UK patent protection will continue to be available via the EPO after Brexit is complete (as discussed here).
The precise details for the process at the end of the transitional period in 2020 are still under discussion. For example, we expect further clarification of various issues including the treatment of Supplementary Protection Certificates. The general principles set out in the draft agreement confirm that we do not expect any EU IP rights to be lost as a result of Brexit.
Further details of the withdrawal agreement can be found in our recent briefing note: Intellectual property rights – what does the future hold after Brexit?