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11 February 2019

Brexit update: trade marks and design rights

Although negotiations remain ongoing, it appears increasingly possible that there will be no deal in place between the UK Government and the EU by 29 March 2019. If you are an owner of or have any interest in EU trade mark or design registrations, this note highlights the key issues that you should be aware of in the event of a no deal.

Trade marks and registered designs

If you are the proprietor of UK trade mark and design registrations, your rights will remain largely unaffected by the UK leaving the EU.

Post-Brexit, however, EU trade mark and design registrations will no longer have protection in the UK. In the event of a ‘no deal’, the UK Government has confirmed that it will ensure that the rights in all existing registered EU trade marks and designs will continue to be protected and be enforceable in the UK. The UK will create new UK equivalent rights for these trade marks and designs at the point of exit. There will be no cost attached to this process. The details of the new right will reflect the filing, priority and the renewal of the existing EU trade mark and design rights.

If your EU trade mark or design is still at its application stage (ie not yet registered) at the date of exit, you will need to refile the application at the UK IPO within nine months of the exit date using the normal application process to acquire a UK equivalent right. Subject to paying the UK refiling cost, the UK Government will recognise the filing dates and priority claims recorded on the original EU application.

‘.eu’ domain names

Brexit will not affect domain names with ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.com’ TLDs.

However as of the withdrawal date, persons or organisations based in or established in the UK will no longer be eligible to own or register ‘.eu’ domain names. EURid (the Registry for ‘.eu’ domains) has announced that two months after exit date, it will be entitled at its discretion to revoke any domain name where the registrant is resident in the UK.

Therefore, if you do own and run your business through an ‘.eu’ domain, it is crucial that the registration is transferred to an EU-based subsidiary or an entity or person who is resident in the EU. If this is not possible it would be best to set up a new domain name and redirect any traffic from the ‘.eu’ domain to the new domain.

Conclusion

The UK’s exit from the EU will not affect the current European patent system, which is governed by the (non-EU) European Patent Convention.

Whilst uncertainty remains, it is important to review and consider how Brexit might affect your trade mark and design rights and take appropriate steps to ensure that your intellectual property assets are secure in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.

If you are unsure of what steps are required to protect your IP rights, please do not hesitate to contact the IP team.

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