As part of its membership of the EU, the UK’s intellectual property regime has, to a large extent, been governed by European Law. This is particularly applicable in trademarks, where the EU Intellectual Property Office provides for a centralised application and granting system of trademarks, which have an effect across the whole of the EU, including the UK.
A huge concern for businesses and brand owners is whether their EU registered trademarks will continue to have effect in the UK in a post-Brexit world. Practitioners have largely been quite confident that this would have to be the case, with many feeling some sort of ‘grandfathering’ regime converting existing EU Trademarks into UK registered trademarks at some point down the line is a likely outcome.
The EU moved to reduce uncertainty on 28 February 2018 in the first draft agreement governing the UK’s withdrawal. It sets out that “the protection enjoyed in the United Kingdom on the basis of Union law by both UK and EU 27 holders of intellectual property rights having unitary character within the Union before the withdrawal date is not undermined by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”. This would apply to the unitary IP rights (EU trademarks, registered community designs, plant varieties).
One final concern which has attracted a lot of headlines is what will happen to goods which have ‘geographic indication’ protection under EU law, such as the Cornish Pastie and Scottish Whiskey. What will happen to these remains to be seen, though again, most industry experts believe those rights will be preserved through bilateral or other agreements.
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