UK IPO Brexit Transition Guidance declares business as usual for IP, for now...

The IPO in Wales - the new epicentre for IP lobbying
after Brexit?
The AmeriKat has been having a blissful few weeks away from the UK and the Brexit nightmare.  Her head has instead been filled with palm trees, ocean waves and beautiful Pacific blue skies.  That was until she looked at her email yesterday with news from the UK Intellectual Property Office alerting her to new guidance entitled "Intellectual Property and the Transition Period".

Tomorrow is Brexit Day.  What does that mean for IP lawyers?  It means that after tomorrow we will be in what is called the "the transition period".  The period starts as of 1 February 2020 and will end on 31 December 2020.  The UK will remain in both the EU customs union and the single market, and, for IP, business will continue as normal, e.g., the UK will remain part of the EU trade mark, registered and unregistered Community design systems.

As the Guidance states:
"There will be no disruption to IPO services or changes to the UK IP system during this transition period. The IPO will convert almost 1.4 million EU trade marks and 700,000 EU designs to comparable UK rights at the end of the transition period. These will come into effect on 1 January 2021. 
The arrangements in the IP section of the Withdrawal Agreement take effect at the end of the transition period. These arrangements provide legal certainty and protect the interests of rightsholders and users of the IP framework. 
The Withdrawal Agreement ensures continued protection of existing EU-level IP rights in the UK after the end of the transition period. 
This will ensure existing UK IP rights can be managed appropriately in line with existing domestic arrangements."
“We can reassure our customers that there will be no immediate impact when the UK departs from the EU on 31 January 2020. 
Our updated guidance is intended to help businesses and individuals navigate through the transition period to 1 January 2021, when almost 1.4 million EU trade marks and 700,000 EU designs will be converted to UK rights.”
The status of each of the rights during the transition period is spelled out clearly in the Guidance, but the big question is what will happen after the transition period.  In written responses to questions from the AmeriKat, the UK IPO had this to say:
  • "Clarity over the long-term coverage of EU Trade Marks and Registered Community Designs has been a clear priority in the Government’s work on Brexit. The Withdrawal Agreement provides clear provisions for the conversion of these rights into UK rights.
  • The government will provide holders of existing EU rights with a comparable UK trade mark or design at the end of the transition period.
  • Government will produce updated information for businesses and share this on in due course.
  • We are in constant discussions with key stakeholders, including businesses and representatives of IP professional organisations and we are taking their views into account as we look to begin negotiations on the future IP framework".
It is the final point that is crucial, particularly when it comes with issues such as exhaustion of rights post-Brexit.  So although it is business as "normal" in some respects after tomorrow, the next 11 months won't be.  IP lawyers and IP-rich industries will be intensely devoted to lobbying the UK Government to ensure their rights remain clear and certain from 1 January 2021.  There is a lot to do.  So, perhaps it is finally time to join the AmeriKat and move to that tropical island...?

UK IPO Brexit Transition Guidance declares business as usual for IP, for now... UK IPO Brexit Transition Guidance declares business as usual for IP, for now... Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Thursday, January 30, 2020 Rating: 5

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