Impact of a potential “Brexit” on UK and European IP services

19 April 2016

  • Britain will hold a referendum on 23 June 2016 at which the British electorate will decide whether the UK should remain in the European Union (EU). If Britain votes to leave the EU, its government will then be obliged to serve formal notice of its intention to exit. The exit will become effective two years later (or at such earlier or later date as may be negotiated and agreed between the EU and the UK). The UK will remain a participating EU member until the effective exit date.
  • Because of the need for a negotiation, the precise terms and nature of Britain’s exit from the EU following an out vote cannot be predicted at this stage.  In particular, it is not clear which (if any) of the various trade treaties and customs unions might still apply to the UK.
  • What does seem clear is that following an exit it would not be possible for the UK to be part of those IP systems which are exclusive to EU members. These include the EU Trade Mark (formerly known as the Community Trade Mark) the Registered Community Design and the planned Unitary Patent – if and when this new right is introduced.
  • The UK will however remain part of the European Patent Convention (which establishes the European Patent System operated by the European Patent Office) and of other international IP treaties and systems such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”) and the Madrid Agreement on international trademark registration.  
  • Because the UK will remain part of the European Patent Convention, in the event of a Brexit it will still be possible to designate the UK on patents granted by the European Patent Office. There are already a number of non-EU countries, such as Switzerland, Iceland and Norway which participate fully in the European Patent system and Britain would become another such county.
  • The exit of Britain from the EU may cause some delays to the introduction to the new Unitary Patent (UP) system in the EU. When and if the UP system does go ahead it will still be founded on the current EPO system.  Prosecution of a patent will proceed as presently and after grant there will be the option to designate the UK (and other countries that are not participating in the UP system) at the same time as electing for a UP designation for those countries that are within the UP system. Alternatively (as now) UK patent protection can be obtained through a direct UK filing at the UK Intellectual Property Office.
  • Following a Brexit, Britain would no longer directly participate in the EU Trade Mark, nor the Community Design right. Those seeking Trade Mark and Design protection in Britain would need to obtain this through direct Trade Mark and Registered Design applications at the UKIPO.
  • It is not yet known how rights within the UK that are currently protected under the European Trade Mark or Design systems would be protected following Brexit but it seems likely that the UK government would introduce a system for recognition of existing EU rights within the UK territory.

Haseltine Lake – full UK and European capability

Haseltine Lake has been operating as a pan-European firm for many decades and will continue to do so, whatever happens in the Brexit vote. Our sizeable presence in mainland Europe and in the UK, and our network of IP specialists that we work with globally, make us well-placed to handle any required combinations of national and international IP rights.  In the event of Brexit, please be assured that it will be very much “business as usual” at Haseltine Lake and we will continue to provide full services for:

  • European Patents
  • Community Trade Marks and Designs
  • National Patent, Trade Mark and Design filings in the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium.
  • The Unitary Patent - when introduced

We are aware that the complexity and uncertainty surrounding a possible British exit from the EU is of considerable concern to some holders of IP rights. It is clear however that in the event of a no vote there will be a period of time in which the detailed issues can be considered and addressed and in which a clearer picture will emerge. Haseltine Lake will continue to monitor the position and will provide information and advice to help clients to understand the impact of Brexit on their IP rights and to prepare accordingly. 


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