The UK electorate has decided that the UK should leave the European Union (EU).  The referendum does not take immediate effect.  Current EU law and EU-wide rights, for example, the EU trade mark and the registered Community design, will continue to apply until the withdrawal from the EU actually happens.  The process of leaving the EU is expected to take several years. Owners of IP rights will not, therefore, need to rush into immediate action, although it is advisable to consider a change in strategy now.

We are ranked as one of the top 15 global law firm platforms in the world by Law360.  This firm is well positioned to advise clients on the impact of Brexit.  The team across our network of European offices includes Continental European qualified IP lawyers, including partners Florian Traub and Iliana Haleen.  This means that we will continue to represent clients in protecting their EU trade marks and designs, including acting before EU courts.

The referendum has not started the clock running – that will be for the next UK Prime Minister, following David Cameron’s announcement to step down.  In the interim, EU rights including the UK and ongoing litigation will be unaffected.  Once the UK has invoked Article 50(1) of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) notifying the EU of its withdrawal, Brexit will take effect either on ratification of an agreement between the EU and the UK on the UK’s terms of exit or two years after notification, whichever is the sooner.  The time period can be extended by unanimous agreement of all EU member states.

The terms on which Brexit will occur are currently uncertain.  However, it is expected that:

  • EU rights, such as the EU trade mark or registered Community design, will cease to be valid in the UK;
  • EU rights will continue to exist in the remaining 27 EU member states with the option to be converted into UK national rights
  • IP infringements will have to be separately litigated in the UK and EU
  • The existing European patent system will be unaffected, but the new Unitary Patent once (and perhaps if) it comes into force is unlikely to apply to the UK

Click here to read more about the implications of Brexit for IP rights in the UK.