June 24, 2016
In light of yesterday’s United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union (EU), some impact on intellectual property rights is expected. The extent of that impact of the withdrawal will not be known for some time.
As an initial matter, the UK’s formal departure from the EU is not expected to be effective for some months. For now, the UK remains a member of the EU, and extant treaties and agreements remain effective and in force.
Significantly, we expect little impact on the procedures for securing utility patent rights. The European Patent Organization (EPO) is a separate organization from the EU, and yesterday’s vote did not affect the UK’s status as an EPO member state. The withdrawal also will not affect the UK’s participation in the Paris Convention or its accession to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). We expect that U.S. patent applicants will continue to be able to file priority applications in the UK, to designate the UK in EPO filings and to obtain the benefits of PCT practice, without change.
The situation will be much different for trademarks and designs. Perhaps most significantly, both European Community designs and European trademarks are features of the European Union. The impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on existing designs and trademarks is unknown. It is very unlikely that the withdrawal will lead to a wholesale forfeiture of design or trademark rights, and we expect the adoption of transitional procedures to address these matters. We have been in communication on this matter with our colleagues in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and we expect to take appropriate action to maintain the fullest extent of our clients’ rights. Going forward, it is conceivable that some future inter-European treaty might continue the viability of European Community designs and European trademarks for future registration in the UK, and likewise it is equally conceivable that the UK will operate independently from the EU.
Fitch Even attorneys will post more information on this developing situation in future alerts.