The United Kingdom will soon withdraw from the European Union: what will happen to European Union-wide intellectual property rights, such as European Union trademarks, Community designs and Community plant variety rights? Will they continue to be valid in the United Kingdom? As things stand today they might not, and the European Commission has issued warnings to right holders telling them what they need to know to avoid nasty surprises.
On 30 March 2019 the United Kingdom will officially cease to be a member state of the European Union.
What will happen to European Union-wide intellectual property rights such as European Union trademarks, Community designs and Community plant variety rights? Will registrations continue to be valid after 30 March 2019 or not?
The negotiations concerning the United Kingdom’s withdrawal are not yet over.
However the European Commission recently issued two documents on the subject of IP rights and the withdrawal of the United Kingdom: a Notice concerning European Union trademarks and Community designs, countersigned by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), and a second Notice concerning European Union plant variety rights, countersigned by the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO).
The notices warn right holders to consider the possibility that on 30 March 2019 European Union trademarks, Community designs and Community plant variety rights could stop being valid in the United Kingdom, even though they were registered before 30 March 2019.
Both documents stress that “preparing for the withdrawal is not just a matter for European Union and national authorities, but also for private parties”.
The EUIPO has also published a Questions and Answers document on EU trade marks and registered Community designs in the context of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The warnings were issued by the European Commission in view of the possibility that negotiations might not reach any agreement on the validity of European Union trademarks, Community designs and Community plant variety rights in the United Kingdom after the withdrawal.
What are the risks for EU trademarks, Community designs and Community plant variety rights
In the -hopefully unlikely- event that no agreement is reached, as from 30 March 2019 at 00:00 h. (Central European Time) European Union trademark, Community design and Community plant variety registrations will cease to be valid in the United Kingdom, although they will continue to be valid in all the remaining European Union member states.
What to do
At the moment it is impossible to foresee the results of Brexit negotiations.
However, should the expected agreement safeguarding EU-wide IP rights in the UK not be reached by the beginning of 2019, it would be advisable to file for national registrations in the United Kingdom.
In fact, filing an application for a national registration in the United Kingdom before 30 March 2019 will ensure continued protection even if the European Union trademark, Community design or Community plant variety right ceases to be valid on that date.
What to avoid
It is important not to let any national trademark registrations in the United Kingdom lapse, also in view of the fact that all existing seniority claims in European Union trademark rights based on national rights in the United Kingdom will cease to have an effect in the European Union as from 30 March 2019.
Check your international registrations!
Carefully monitor any international trademark and design registrations: international registrations designating the European Union will also cease to be valid in the United Kingdom if no agreement is reached.
Stay tuned for further updates on Brexit negotiations and IP rights.