IP Post-Brexit: What Does the “FEUture” hold?November 6, 2019

On December 12, the United Kingdom (UK) will hold a general election, in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to secure a clear majority so as not to lose the prospect of Brexit after failing to leave the European Union (EU) by the end of October as previously promised. Currently, Johnson enjoys a healthy lead in the polls which raises the question: what is the impact of Brexit on intellectual property law in the UK?  

Trademark Law

                Currently an EU trademark provides protection throughout the 28 countries of the EU with one single registration. The current understanding post-Brexit is that existing holders of an EU trademark will be automatically granted a separate and equivalent trademark in the UK, unless the trademark owner opts out. The holder of the equivalent UK trademark would then need to take note of the UK specific renewal rules. Trademark applications pending in the EU post-Brexit would need to re-file in the UK within 9 months, and the UK intellectual property office has agreed to recognize the EU filing date for priority purposes. Any new trademark applicants seeking protection in both the EU and the UK would need to file separate applications.

Patent Law

                European and UK patents are governed by the European Patent Convention (EPC) which is a non-EU agreement and the European Patent Office which overseas European patent prosecution and is a non-EU body. Currently there are 38 EPC members including non-EU members Turkey, Norway, and Switzerland. Therefore, European and UK patents are not governed by EU law and therefore Brexit will largely have no effect. There are exceptions in limited areas of existing patent law. For example, Supplementary Protection Certificates in the EU provide for additional protection after a patent has run out for certain pharmaceutical products and agricultural chemicals. Post Brexit, the availability of this extension will depend upon equivalent provisions in UK regulatory law.

Copyright Law

                The UK is a member of various international agreements and treaties protecting copyright worldwide which are not dependent upon EU membership and which will continue post-Brexit. However, the UK is party to some EU specific cross-border copyright mechanisms that may continue with UK legislation but not be reciprocated. One example is the county-of-origin copyright clearance in satellite broadcasting where satellite broadcasters can broadcast a work protected by copyright law into any EU state after clearing copyright requirements in the broadcaster’s host nation.

Updates will be provided as developments unfold in the UK.


Julie Spieker is a patent attorney in the Biotechnology & Chemical and Mechanical & Electrical Patent Practice Groups at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit www.ipmvs.com or contact Julie directly at julie.spieker@ipmvs.com.




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