Brexit – time to panic or not?

Great Britain and EU, Brexit referendum concept

Brexit has also led to a lot of uncertainty in the IP world. With time it may cause changes. But Brexit has no immediate effects on existing IP rights, and will not limit the extent thereof. The new European Unitary Patent, which was thought to come into effect in early 2017, will be delayed. 

The historic British vote for Brexit on June 23, 2016, will have large consequences in EU. The implementation thereof, which will lead to the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the EU, will take at least two years and probably a lot longer.

EU trademarks and designs now encompass the UK. This will end when the UK has completed the exit from the EU. Then one will have to apply for trademark and design protection in the UK in addition to in EU. Most likely there will be a transitional period, when existing EU trademarks and designs can be re-registered as National UK registrations.

Brexit will also influence the European patent system, but not to degree one might assume. The European Patent Office, EPO, where one may apply for a patent and then, after grant, validate in European countries, will not be changed. The reason therefore is that EPO is independent from EU, and therefore non-EU members such as Norway and eventually the UK can continue to be members.

But the new European Unitary Patent will be affected. It was supposed to make it so that unlike today, where patents granted by the EPO must be individually validated in each European country of choice, one would be able to obtain a single patent for the entire EU, enforced by a single EU judiciary patent system, the UPC (and only validate in the few European non-EU member states). The legal framework for the European Unitary Patent and the UPC is written in a manner which makes it dependent on the UK, so it will have to be renegotiated. One of the three EPC courts was to be located in London, and will probably have to be moved. Thus, the almost finalized European Unitary Patent will have to be delayed, and it will most likely take several years for it to be implemented.