Brexit Update: As you probably already know, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. There is currently less than one year left to this big day after which so much is going to change. This new situation, with United Kingdom outside the European Union, has its impact also on the currently harmonized European trademark law.
So far, there have been much uncertainty about the future of European trademark protection in the United Kingdom and vice versa after Brexit. In December 2017, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) issued a “Preparedness Notice” advising trademark holders that absent an agreement to the contrary by the March 30, 2019 deadline, registered European trademarks would no longer have any validity or effect in the UK.
The negotiations between the UK government and the EU are still far from being over, but at least on March 19, 2018 the Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community has been published. It’s main objective is the post-transition period, planned to last from 29 March 2019, to 31 December 2020. During this period the UK, although from the legal point of view outside the European Union, will de facto remain its member.
According to the Draft Agreement the owners of the trademarks which have been registered before the end of the transition period shall, without any re-examination, become the holder of a comparable registered and enforceable intellectual property right in the United Kingdom, as provided for by the law of the United Kingdom. In other words, during the transition period nothing should changed in comparison to the present situation. Moreover, the marks already registered by the EUIPO should retain their protection in the United Kingdom even after its ultimate separation from the European Union.
However, the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations remains unknown. Moreover, there is still some kind of uncertainty about how the EUIPO and European courts will deal with trademarks filed before or during the transitional period, once the transition period expires.
As a result, it is still better to protect your business in advance and register your trademarks in both the European Union and the United Kingdom. This lets you avoid the chaos associated with the separation of EUIPO and UKIPO, which at present seems to be inevitable.