June 21, 2016
Lexology hosted an article by RPC, which questioned how a ‘Brexit’, or British exit from the EU, would affect IP laws in the UK afterwards. The firm notes that while IP “might not be at the top of your list of considerations when thinking about which way to vote”, IP law is “heavily harmonised across the EU, meaning that a vote to leave could have serious ramifications for businesses relying on IP rights”.
The article first addresses trademarks and community design rights, stating that the “shape of IP law” after a ‘Brexit’ “would depend on the replacement legal model chosen”, but that “under almost all possible models EU rights would likely cease to have effect”. While the UK might choose to “introduce successor rights or transitional provisions to provide EU rights holders with protection”, there is a “possibility that businesses relying on these […] will need to apply for new national rights”.
This could mean extra costs, and owners of existing EU rights “will be affected by a diminishment in value”, while trademarks only used in the UK “could become vulnerable to non-use revocation following a Brexit”. On patents, the firm pointed out that the EU system “is not governed by an EU institution, meaning that a Brexit would not necessarily affect the UK’s participation in the system”.
However, the future of the unified patent system, which would “offer a single patent covering most EU countries and which is expected to reduce the cost of obtaining patent protection”, would “look uncertain”, and “at the very least” would require amending before implementation. This would mean the due date of 2017 would be “likely to suffer significant delay”.
Next, on copyright RPC commented that while law in England and Wales “has been largely influenced by EU law”, it is “essentially an area of national law”, so there “will not necessarily be any immediate effect” if the nations vote to leave. In the long term however, we “could see a divergence between copyright law in the UK and the EU”, because UK courts could “no longer be bound be EU case law”, though judges could “continue to consider EU case law and regulations”.
Finally, addressing practical considerations, the firm notes that a leave vote would mean the actual exit date “is unlikely to be before 2018”, and that before then “businesses would need to review their IP portfolios to ensure that their IP rights would be adequately protected under the new legal model”.
This would be key not only for businesses “with an existing IP portfolio”, but also for those “looking to buy or sell a business or an IP asset”, and businesses would also have to “review existing IP licences to ensure that they will be effective post-Brexit”.
The Recycler reported earlier this year that it had received questions from UK companies concerning what might happen if it leaves the EU, and Promax Imaging’s Sales and Technical Manager Tim Parsons, also Legal Consultant for UK association UKCRA, shared his perspectives on the implications. We also reported on another legal expert’s views on what would happen to environmental law should the UK vote to leave the EU.
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