In 2016 the United Kingdom voted to end its membership of the European Union (EU). Two years later reports on the legal formalities of the UK’s departure are being slowly released, such as a recent update from the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) clarifying the future UK-EU IP relationship.

Set in stone

The UK is scheduled to depart the EU at 11pm on Friday 29th March 2019. Negotiations are still underway and both sides have agreed to a 21-month transition period for post-Brexit discussions.

While exit terms are negotiated, EU IP laws continue to apply in the UK, although it is as yet uncertain if this will continue during the transitionary period. There are certain types of IP rights that will not change even with Brexit, including:

  • UK registered and unregistered IP rights and national IPRs will remain intact
  • European Patents obtained from the European Patent Office will remain in effect as they are not tied to EU membership

Provisional steps forward

The latest update to UKIPO’s ‘IP and Brexit: the facts’ page has given more information on what innovators can expect from Brexit.

The UK government has confirmed Brexit will not affect the current European patent system. There will be no changes for UK-based patent attorneys to manage and protect IP at the European Patent Office (EPO).

The current trademark system will be similarly unaffected. Current EU trademark registrations will continue to apply in the UK even after Brexit, while the government has proposed all EU trademarks will be cloned to create UK rights post-Brexit. This process would be free and automatic for eligible trademarks.

One patent court

One uncertainty has been the planned Unified Patent Court (UPC) – where a patent is valid in all participating member states of the European Union. The UK government plans to continue participating in the UPC. The UPC is expected to launch in 2019 after final negotiations are resolved.

The long-term effect of the UK’s decision to exit the EU remains unknown for many industries, including IP. UK businesses will have to continue preparing IP strategies for any and all outcomes of negotiations.