Brexit Briefing: Trade marks and registered designs

With little time remaining before the UK is due to leave the European Union, considerable uncertainty still remains about the shape of Brexit and the future for business. EU trade marks, Community designs (registered and unregistered), and EU designations of International trade marks and registered designs (referred to below as “EU Rights”) apply automatically across the whole EU.

However, without action by the UK Government, these rights will no longer be protected in the UK once it leaves. Draft UK legislation offers some clarity as to how EU rights will be affected by Brexit.  

In November 2018 the UK and EU agreed, at negotiators’ level, a draft “Withdrawal Agreement”. This provided for the continuation of the current position during a transition period lasting until 31 December 2020, and set out a framework for UK protection of EU Rights existing at the end of the transition period.  The Withdrawal Agreement was approved by the 27 remaining EU member states, leaving approval by the UK Parliament as one of the final obstacles.  However, the UK Parliament emphatically rejected the Withdrawal Agreement on 15 January.  Discussions are now under way to find a way forward, whether through negotiating revisions to the Withdrawal Agreement, offering the public an opportunity to cancel Brexit through a new referendum or finding a completely new approach.

Despite active attempts to agree a way forward, there is a real likelihood that these will fail, meaning that a “no deal” Brexit on 29 March 2019 (“Brexit Day”) remains a significant possibility.  Note that this is the default result in the existing Brexit legislation, and both the EU institutions and the UK Government are making substantial preparations for this outcome.  It could have a significant impact on the status of EU Rights in the UK.  We focus below on the “no deal” scenario, on the basis that it is prudent to plan for this outcome, and conclude with the steps we recommend rights holders to take.


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