On March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, formally notifying the European Union of the UK's intention to withdraw from the EU. The UK government now begins the lengthy process of negotiating the terms of our exit with our European partners.
Initially, there will be no change as the UK will remain an EU member until the process has been completed, which is estimated to be at least two years, possibly considerably longer.
Brexit will have no effect on the usual system for European patents. In terms of IP it is important to differentiate the terms EU and Europe. European patents cover territories which are different to the member states of the EU. The UK will continue to be a member of the European Patent Organisation which is a separate body from the EU. UK patent protection will continue to be available via the European Patent Office and UK-based qualified European patent attorneys will act in the usual way in all matters before the EPO.
In the case of European Union trade marks (EUTMs) and registered Community designs (RCDs), nothing will change until the leaving process is complete, so the impact of Brexit will depend on the outcome of the negotiations. Until that point, EUTMs and RCDs remain in force and cover the UK. We fully expect that EUTM holders will not lose their UK rights, and are monitoring this situation. Organisations should review their EUTM portfolio to identify those trade marks of most value to their UK business and consider re-filing in the UK if they identify that the present EU/UK negotiated outcome may present a risk to their trade mark rights. National UK IP rights, including trade marks and designs, will, of course, be unaffected by Brexit.
Also, IP agreements with other parties should be checked for any potential implications in light of the UK exit.
The UK is to remain part of the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court system. The UK Intellectual Property Office has confirmed that the government's preparations for ratification of the UPC Agreement are "fully on track" to allow the UK-based UPC to open in December 2017 as per the preparatory committee's timetable.
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