Thu 30th Jan 2020

Brexit developments and impact on intellectual property

Services: Patents, Trade marks

Sectors: Brand owners

Following the UK general election and conclusion of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, there is now a new stage in the departure of the UK from the European Union.

Brexit and IP

Page White and Farrer is in the UK and Germany, and will continue to provide a full service for all types of intellectual property in both the European Union and the UK.


On 31 January 2020, the UK leaves the EU but there is a transition period until 31 December 2020 while the two sides negotiate trade agreements. European Union law continues to apply. If no agreement is reached and there is no extension, there will be a 'hard' Brexit at the end of this year.


How will Brexit affect patents and copyright?


In relation to many intellectual property rights, notably patents and copyright, the departure of the UK from the EU will have no impact. The European Patent Convention (EPC) is a separate international treaty, not connected to the EU. The UK will remain a member of the EPC even after the transition period, and UK based European Patent Attorneys will continue to be able to act before the European Patent Office precisely as now. 


Likewise, most UK copyright works (such as books, films and music) will still be protected in the EU and the UK because of the UK's participation in various international treaties on copyright. For the same reason, EU copyright works will continue to be protected in the UK.


How will Brexit affect supplementary protection certificates?


Supplementary protection certificates will be affected by Brexit and are discussed separately in this article on our website.


How will Brexit affect trade marks and design rights?


During the transition period, EU registered trade marks and EU registered designs will continue to cover all 28 current countries, including the UK.  EU registered trade marks and EU registered design applications can be filed as usual and currently take around 5 months to get to grant for trade marks and a matter of days for designs, if no objections arise.  Likewise, existing EU unregistered design rights will continue to cover all 28 current countries, including the UK, during the transition period.


When the transition period ends, which appears to be likely to occur on 31 December 2020, owners of EU registered trade marks or registered or unregistered design rights will be given an equivalent UK registered trade mark or registered or unregistered UK design right with minimal administrative burden, though the owner can opt to refuse such UK rights. The existing EU registered trade marks and registered and unregistered design rights will continue to cover the remaining 27 EU countries.


Those with EU registered trade marks or EU registered design applications that are pending at the end of the transition period will have 9 months (which is likely to be until 30 September 2021) to request a UK equivalent right using the normal application process and UK costs, whilst retaining the EU application date. 


Our advice is that if you do have trade mark or design interests, it would be advisable to file EU registered trade mark or registered design applications in the early part of 2020 to seek to register them before the end of the year. This will have the benefit of saving the cost of refiling for UK rights after that time.


We can advise you on helping ensure applications proceed smoothly and advise on any objections that do arise.


Business as usual


In summary, as at the time of the original referendum, it remains 'business as usual' during the transition period, except that there is merit in trying to get further EU registered trade mark and registered design applications through to grant before the end of 2020.


How we can help


Page White and Farrer is a full-service European IP firm with significant offices in London, Leeds and Munich. Our British, French, Finnish and German attorneys are on hand with many decades of experience. As such, we can continue to file European patent, trade mark and design applications on your behalf, both during the transition period and afterwards.


Please do not hesitate to contact your usual attorney or if you have any questions on the above.


Our offices


+44 20 7831 7929

Bedford House, John Street, London, WC1N 2BF, United Kingdom


+44 20 7831 7929

Suite 3.05, Platform, New Station Street, Leeds, LS1 4JB, United Kingdom


+49 89 5150 5800

Widenmayerstr. 10, D-80538 München, Germany