Last night, in an election that had one of the largest voter turnouts in British history, a majority of UK citizens voted for the UK to exit the European Union. The ramifications of this vote are still being determined, but at least with respect to intellectual property protection, there are five things you should know:
- The UK’s exit from the EU will probably not become official and effective for at least two years, as Article 50 of the EU treaty provides for such a time period to allow for an orderly exit. Hence, nothing changes until likely June 2018.
- The European Patent Office is not part of the EU system (the UK is a direct member of the European Patent Office) and therefore Brexit should not be problem for patent applications/patent owners as part of the EP/EPO patent system. It is less clear what will happen with the unitary EU patent system (as well as the Unified Patent court) in view of yesterday's vote.
- We anticipate an orderly exit of the UK from the EU Trademark Office—and an opportunity to nationalize a UK trademark from the EU Trademark Office—or that the UK will in the meantime negotiate a separate treaty to continue/enter anew into EU community trademark registration process.
- In the short run, we recommend electing the UK separately and apart from any election to an EU patent/trademark/design strategy whenever possible (i.e., register separately in both jurisdictions when possible).
- We will continue to monitor the situation and update accordingly.