The recent referendum decision in the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU) will not only impact some existing rights of intellectual property owners, but will also likely affect filing strategy decisions going forward. Even so, it is important to note that the June 23rd vote has only started the EU withdrawal process and the UK remains an EU member until the exit is formally completed. Since this is an unprecedented decision, it may take years for the exit to be implemented.
On the patent front, it appears that the exit will not affect any existing rights granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) since it is not an EU body. After the exit, patents issued by the EPO will similarly be unaffected. The same holds true for new patent application filings after the exit.
In terms of trademarks, the situation is much more uncertain than with patents since the UK is covered by EU trademark system. Currently, trademarks can be protected in the UK either by a direct national UK registration or an EU registration. The exit vote will not affect national UK registrations. Once the exit is fully implemented, it is expected that the EU registrations will no longer cover the UK. It is assumed that as part of the transition from the EU, there will be a process to allow trademark owners to extend EU based trademark registration rights into the UK. However, what the ultimate shape and form of that will be is uncertain and will likely take years to workout. In the meantime, trademark owners looking for protection in the EU and UK will need to take these changes into consideration as part of their trademark filing strategies.
In summary, intellectual property owners with rights in the EU and the UK do not have to take any action at this time. As the implications of the exit become clear over the next months and years, there will likely be decisions required especially with respect to trademark rights. During that time our attorneys will keep you advised of any changes that affect your intellectual property rights in the UK and the EU. In the meantime, please contact Volpe and Koenig attorneys with any questions.