The UK has voted to leave the European Union, but how does this affect patents? Patents can be obtained in the UK via two separate means, either directly from the UK intellectual Office (UKIPO) which is governed by the UK Patents Act, or from the European Patent Office. Both organisations are unaffected by the UK leaving the EU. The European Patent Office is not an EU organisation, and already has members who are not member states of the EU such as Turkey, Norway and Switzerland.
UK patents, regardless of the system by which they were obtained (via the UKIPO or the EPO) are enforceable at the UKIPO and the UK courts.
The UK's potential exit from the EU does not change the current systems for obtaining patent protection in the UK, and the situation remains unchanged for patents granted by the UKIPO and European patents designating the UK. Patent applications pending before the UKIPO or the EPO will also continue as before.
Further, the enforcement of UK patents, regardless of the system under which they were obtained, will not be affected by Brexit.
European patent attorneys based in the UK will continue to represent applicants and patentees in all proceedings before the EPO and the UKIPO. This will continue once Brexit has actually taken place. So whether the UK is in, or out, of the EU will make very little difference to the present system of obtaining or enforcing patent protection in Europe.
European trade marks and designs may be affected as these are on offer only to countries which are member states of the EU, although it appears likely that a suitable extension agreement will be negotiated, so that these rights continue as before (perhaps similar to those extended to EEA member states).
European trade mark owners should consider keeping any UK national rights used in support of a seniority claim in force to ensure the best protection for the trade mark in the UK and may wish to consider filing national UK applications to guard against any eventuality.
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