While the result of the UK’s referendum on its EU membership has brought about high levels of uncertainty for many industries across the country, entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to adapt to changing environments. The flexibility they enjoy helps them accommodate the unexpected. It is not only the economic situation around us which may change, but much of the legal infrastructure will change too.
Key to many entrepreneurs’ ability to commercialise their business ideas is intellectual property (IP) protection, in certain times and uncertain times. Following the referendum, there has been no immediate change in relation to IP law. It is likely to be months if not years before the position changes substantively. In the meantime, we provide some initial observations.
The UK’s membership of the EU has no effect on its membership of the European Patent Organisation. This means that European Patents will continue to cover the UK and Patent Attorneys like ourselves will continue to be able to represent clients in all matters before the European Patent Office. Similarly, membership of the EU has no effect on any national patents or applications, nor does it have any effect on PCT applications. Enforcement will continue to be available in the UK Courts as presently.
Trade marks and designs
These areas of IP are likely to be more greatly affected by the decision to leave the EU. Specifically it is to be expected that EU Trade Mark and Community Design Registrations will in future not apply to the UK. With three offices across France and Luxembourg, whatever changes come into effect, we will remain able to register EU IP rights.
There are likely to be transitional provisions to cover community rights filed before the UK formally leaves the EU. It is too early to speculate how those transitional provisions will develop, but for the time being businesses should continue with their existing filing strategies. Likewise, there is no change to enforcement routes for the time being.
Withdrawal from the EU might affect aspects of the law underlying contracts, copyright and other areas of relevance to IP. For the moment, however, nothing will change and things are not likely to move quickly on this aspect.
Entrepreneurs and start-up firms should remain pragmatic and figure out how to move forward by looking for new openings and delivering the best solution with speed to market.
Paul Chapman, Partner
Chartered Patent Attorney (UK), European Patent Attorney