UK’s decision to leave the EU is a historical event which will lead to substantial changes and significant uncertainty especially with respect to trade directed at the British market. The country will now have to re-establish its relationship with the EU.
What will this mean to EU trademarks? Nobody knows. The regulations concerning EU trademarks are detailed with respect to new EU Member States, but they do not address the question of a Member State leaving the EU.
The simplest alternative is that EU trademarks will remain in force in the UK. This may be problematic or even impossible, however, if the country’s trademark practices start to diverge from those of the EU. The political atmosphere may even have such an effect that a uniform EU trademark ceases to cover the UK.
Does this mean that companies should apply for trademark protection in the UK to be on the safe side? We think that at least not yet. EU trademarks will remain in force regardless of the voting results. We also believe that the UK and the EU will eventually reach an understanding on how the valid EU trademarks will live on as national UK trademarks. It is already possible to convert an EU trademark into national applications which keep their original priority and scope of protection. It would be logical to create a similar arrangement for leaving Member States. In such a solution, an EU trademark’s geographical scope of protection would be limited with respect to the UK but, on the other hand, a local application fee would bring about a corresponding national trademark registration with the same protection and priority as the original EU trademark application, even if the future interpretation of the protection would take place in accordance with national law.
At this stage, it seems clear that Brexit will lead to a period of uncertainty over industrial property rights and that the uncertainty may last for quite some time.
For further information, please contact:
Partner, Attorney at Law
tel. +358 40 745 7193