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How Brexit Impacts IP Rights

Companies routinely enter into international transactions that involve intellectual property (IP) rights. We discuss here the impact of the United Kingdom's vote to exit the European Union (EU) on IP, specifically focusing on patent and trademark rights.

The UK's existing IP legislation is not expected to change over the next two years.

In a referendum on June 23, the United Kingdom public voted to leave the European Union. The UK government has stated that it will not invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (and put in motion the steps to leave the EU) before the end of 2016. Even after Article 50 is invoked, the UK will remain a member of the EU for at least two years, while the terms of the UK's exit are negotiated. During this transitional period, EU legislation remains in effect and no changes to any existing IP legislation are expected. Although the UK's preferred model for its post-Brexit relationship with the EU is still to be decided—the current position is that this should be announced in early 2017—it is likely that, post-Brexit, patent and trademark rights in the UK will be different from those in the EU.

Companies will still be able to obtain patent protection in the UK via existing national, European and international systems; however, it is unknown how the referendum will impact the Unitary Patent System and the Unified Patent Court.

The UK will remain a member state of the European Patent Convention (EPC), which is completely independent of the EU. Thus, it will still be possible to obtain patent protection in the UK via the national, European and international systems currently in place. Accordingly, companies can still file a single patent application at the European Patent Office (EPO) and thus pursue European patent protection throughout 24 of the 27 countries of the EU.

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