And so Great Britain has decided to leave the EU.
This is surely an incredibly important and historic event the consequences of which are not yet clear.

What we already do know is that in the short term nothing will in fact change until Great Britain chooses the legal mechanism to formalize its departure from the EU. Until then, all agreements and treaties will remain in force.

Evaluating the situation from the IP perspective, no change should occur in the short term.
Still, the political choices that Great Britain will decide to pursue in establishing future relations with the EU will greatly impact IP rights as well.

For example, at present Great Britain is a party to the European trademark and design system handled by the EUIPO (previously OHIM), i.e. the European Office responsible for the registration of European trademarks and designs.

What will happen when the procedures for the separation of Great Britain from the EU will be activated?

It is very likely that procedures will be put in place for the conversion of European trademarks and designs into national British ones.

But what will happen to trademarks that have never been used in Great Britain but benefited from use in other European countries and could therefore not be canceled for non-use until now?

And what about patents?
Great Britain is one of the founders of the EPC, the European patent system handled by the European Paten Office in Munich, Germany.
Considering that the EPC is a supranational treaty and is not linked to the EU system, nothing should change in that regard.

Nonetheless, one of the ambitious plans of the EU is to add to the present EPC system an alternative and complementary system called the Unitary Patent system (UPS), which should allow quicker and less costly grant of Unity patents and the handling of patent lawsuits in a unified manner at the European level.

The new system should have entered into force in 2017, following the ratification by 13 EU member states, necessarily including Germany, France and Great Britain.

What will happen now that Great Britain will no longer be a part of the EU?

Furthermore, within the UPS London had been designated as the location of the central division of the Unified Patent Court competent for patent lawsuits relating to pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

What will happen to this venue now? Maybe Italy will benefit, as it is the fourth most important patent filer in Europe and Milan had been proposed as a possible venue in the race for the central division.

There will doubtlessly be many interesting developments in Europe in the months to come, even just looking at the specific world of IP. We’ll see how the next chapters go!

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