The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has raised doubt and apprehension for owners of brands and designs, as they are uncertain of the extent and validity of their property rights. This uncertainty has an impact on the movement of goods and services, as it is still unclear if the goods and services that used to circulate freely between the UK and the EU will continue to move under the same conditions.
On 6 September 2017, the European Commission adopted a position paper on intellectual property rights, which describes the basic principles of the EU’s position regarding the intellectual property rights of the European Union. These principles must be presented to Great Britain in negotiations under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The primary principle described in this document is that any owner of a brand or design valid in the European Union, who has acquired the property right until the day on which the United Kingdom leaves the EU (as of now, the departure is estimated on March 2019), should also retain these rights in the territory of the United Kingdom through special internal legislature, if needed. Intellectual property rights (excluding EU brands and designs) that will be transferred to the United Kingdom encompass such objects as protection of unregistered Community designs and plant variety rights, protected geographical indications, protected designation of origin, and geographical indications.
To fulfil this principle a proposal for an automatic acknowledgement of intellectual property rights in the United Kingdom on the basis of the intellectual property laws in the European Union will be put forward. If this position is accepted during the negotiations between the remaining 27 EU Member States and the United Kingdom, it would ease the process of transferring the EU brand and design property rights.
The Government of Great Britain is currently considering what actions owners of EU brands and designs should take to re-register their rights in the country. The position paper of the European Commission stresses that there should not be any additional financial costs for owners of intellectual property rights, and that any administrative burden related to the process should remain minimal. It is obvious that the best solution for owners of EU brands and designs would be the automatic re-registration of intellectual property rights in the United Kingdom without any additional fees.
This automatic re-registration procedure would apply only to brands and designs that were already registered. However, owners of applications that were not fully registered on the day when the United Kingdom leaves the EU will have to submit a separate application in the United Kingdom to ensure protection in the country (such applicants would have the privilege to prioritise the EU application). Taking this into account, it is advisable to hurry up, submit and finish the registration procedures before Great Britain leaves the European Union.