1. Transition period
The United Kingdom departed the EU on 31 January 2020. The withdrawal agreement now provides for a transition period until 31 December 2020 for the European Union and the United Kingdom.
During this time, EU law will continue to be applied in the United Kingdom until 31 December 2020 and includes intellectual property. During this period there will be no change or disruption to services provided by the respective offices.
However, the UKIPO, i.e. the UK Intellectual Property Office, will convert approximately 1.4 million EU trademarks and 700,000 EU designs into so-called “UK equivalent rights” at the end of the transition period.
Now to the various property rights:
2. EU trademarks
During the transition period, the United Kingdom will remain part of the EU trademark system. EU trademarks therefore continue to cover the United Kingdom up to and including 31 December 2020. Only at the end of the transition period will the equivalent rights be converted under the terms of the withdrawal agreement.
For EU trademark applications that are still in the filing procedure on 31 December 2020, there will be a nine-month period for applicants to file a cloned equivalent UK trademark application for a fee.
3. Registered community designs
As with the conversion of the Union trademarks into equivalent UK rights, the Community designs will also be converted into equivalent rights at the end of the transition period. For pending applications the 9-month period will apply, as for the above-mentioned trademark applications still pending on 31 December 2020.
4. Unregistered designs
Unregistered designs will continue to be automatically protected in both the United Kingdom and the European Union if they have been disclosed within the United Kingdom or any Member State. This right provides the holder with three years of protection from copying.
For unregistered designs arising before the end of the transition period, protection in the United Kingdom will continue to be granted for the remainder of the 3 year period.
Designs disclosed in the United Kingdom after the end of the transition period can be protected in the United Kingdom through the supplementary unregistered design, which will protect two- and three-dimensional designs for three years.
5. International registrations designating the European Union
During the transition period, the designation of the European Union will continue to extend to the United Kingdom.
In accordance with the withdrawal agreement, international registrations for trademarks and designs for the United Kingdom will remain in force after 31 December 2020 if they were deposited before the end of the transition period. UKIPO is currently working with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to implement mechanisms to ensure continued protection arising from an EU designation.
Since the European Patent Office is not an EU office, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union does not affect the European patent system. European patents validated in the United Kingdom are therefore not affected by Brexit.
7. Exhaustion of rights
Currently, in the United Kingdom, the exhaustion of an IP right occurs when IP-protected goods are placed anywhere in the European Economic Area by or with the right holder’s permission. This means that rights holders (such as trademark owners) may not prevent the movement of those goods within the European Economic Area. These goods are not counterfeit.
In the withdrawal agreement, the European Union and the United Kingdom have agreed that IP rights that are deemed to be exhausted within the European Union and the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period shall remain exhausted in both areas.
Continued and reciprocal protection for copyright works between the United Kingdom and the European Union is assured by international agreements on copyright. These arrangements are independent of the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Cross-border copyright arrangements which are unique to EU Member States (such as cross-border portability of online content services and reciprocal protection for databases) will continue to apply to the UK until the end of the transition period. The status of these cross-border arrangements after the end of the transition period will depend on the future relationship between the UK and the European Union. However, the withdrawal agreement ensures any database rights that exist in the European Union and the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period will continue to be recognized in both territories for the remainder of their term.
BBiotech (Hons) Vanessa Bockhorni