Since the publication of the UK’s Draft Withdrawal Agreement from the EU (published 19 March 2018) there has been no more than a trickle of information in relation to the future of EU intellectual property rights in the UK. While the Government has sign-posted an intention to ensure EU rights holders are granted equivalent rights in the UK, there has been little further noise on the subject, in particular whether there will be an additional burden on rights holders, such as cost, to have these reciprocal rights in the UK.
In a recent House of Commons debate on 19 July 2018, Robin Walker MP for Worcester and Undersecretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union, said in response to a question from the House what steps were being taken to ensure that intellectual property rights in the creative sector are being maintained:
“UK-owned trade marks and design rights in the EU27 will be unaffected by our withdrawal. Meanwhile, we have agreed to protect all existing EU trade marks, community-registered designs and unregistered designs in the UK as we leave the EU. In place of those EU-level rights, 1.5 million new UK trade marks and registered designs will be granted automatically and for free. The creative industries can therefore be confident that their existing intellectual property rights will not be diminished, and that the UK will remain one of the best places in the world to protect and enforce IP rights.” (emphasis added)
This indication from Government will come as some relief for EU-rights holders who have been eagerly awaiting news on whether EU rights would be protected upon withdrawal and, indeed, whether there would be a cost.
There are still questions remaining, including whether there will be any further administrative burdens upon rights-holders at the end of the planned transition period (ending December 2020), and whether the whole plan falls apart in the event of no deal being formed with the EU. Despite this, it is a step in the right direction for those owners of IP rights who are looking for IP protection in the UK as well as the 27 remaining member states of the EU.