On 12th July 2018, the UK Government published a White Paper setting out its proposal for the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
On the whole, the White Paper presents what has been described as a ”soft” Brexit, i.e. one that sees the UK maintaining a relatively close relationship with the EU after it leaves the Union. If ongoing negotiations do follow the approach laid out in the White Paper, we would expect there to be fairly minimal disruption in the sphere of intellectual property.
There are many other areas where the UK and EU economies are closely linked, including transport, energy, civil judicial cooperation, intellectual property, and audit and accountancy. The particularly close integration between EU Member States in these areas reflects their membership of the Single Market, and the UK recognises that it will not be possible to replicate this entirely once it has left the EU. However there are precedents outside of the Single Market for close cooperation. The UK will look to draw on these precedents in the future relationship, ensuring arrangements of mutual benefit to the UK and the EU that respect UK sovereignty and the autonomy of the EU’s institutions. (White Paper, Section 1.7, Para. 127)
There is limited detail on IP in the White Paper, though the Government does comment on both its importance and the high quality of the UK IP system.
The White Paper does not mention the existing European patent system, which is unsurprising as the European Patent Office (EPO) is a separate international body that is not connected to the EU. So, UK patent protection will continue to be available through the EPO regardless of how Brexit proceeds.
On patents, the Government cites the “long history of European cooperation on patents, which can be costly to enforce in multiple jurisdictions”. It confirms its intention to explore staying in the United Patent Court and unitary patent system after the UK leaves the EU. It will continue working with other contracting parties to ensure that the UPC Agreement can continue on a firm legal basis.
On geographical indications, the Government says that it will be establishing its own GI scheme after Brexit in accordance with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) to provide protection for UK GIs in the UK. The scheme will be available to UK and non-UK applicants.
No specific comments are made on trade marks, designs, or copyright. Nor is the EU’s proposed transition period mentioned.
In short, the White Paper does not provide much clarity on the future of IP rights after Brexit; however, nor does it appear to propose any radical changes. We expect that the revised Draft Withdrawal Agreement, anticipated in October this year, will provide further detail and clarity.
For more information, please visit our Brexit page.