All Eyes on Brexit


The highly complex matter of Brexit is a top priority for INTA’s work in Europe, as Hélène Nicora, INTA’s Chief Representative Officer, Europe, tells Aaron McDonald.

As INTA’s Chief Representative Officer, Europe, Hélène Nicora and her team are the Association’s eyes and ears at EU institutions and other stakeholder organizations. Based in Brussels, Belgium, Ms. Nicora works at the heart of the European Union.

The United Kingdom’s forthcoming departure from the European Union—Brexit—is keeping politicians, journalists, and many other groups, including businesses and lawyers, on their toes. Discussions in the mainstream press and in public may have largely ignored IP, but INTA is under no illusions about the scale of the problem.

“Brexit is not only an unprecedented political situation for the European Union, it is also unprecedented for businesses and citizens in Europe,” says Ms. Nicora.

“If IP issues are not properly addressed, it could have the potential to seriously derail trade and impact businesses and consumers,” Ms. Nicora declares.

The Brexit negotiations—on the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement, the transition period, and the nature of the future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom—are lengthy and complex, and their outcome uncertain, says Ms. Nicora.

“Thanks to its global perspective, INTA is able to advocate before both the European Union’s and the United Kingdom’s negotiators.”

“Companies across all industries and sectors, and of all shapes and sizes, will be affected in a variety of ways, including in areas related to IP and corporate brand protection,” she says.

INTA is calling for a solution that would ensure maximum retention of IP rights along with minimum costs and burden, including the automatic extension of existing EU trademarks to U.K. national trademarks.

INTA has developed a dedicated Brexit webpage to keep members informed, and a Brand Brexit Toolkit—a practical guide for companies to identify issues.

“Thanks to its global perspective,” Ms. Nicora says, “INTA is able to advocate before both the European Union’s and the United Kingdom’s negotiators. INTA has participated in many meetings with the European Commission’s top negotiating team, the U.K. IP Minister, and the U.K. Intellectual Property Office.”

Beyond Brexit

The European Representative Office works closely with INTA’s U.S. headquarters in New York City, New York and with its other representative offices in Shanghai, China; Singapore; Santiago, Chile; and Washington, D.C.  

Aside from Brexit, the Office is working to ensure that the final texts from the EU’s trademark reform package, agreed upon in 2015, are appropriately enforced.

Work is also underway to address the threat of a potential spread in plain packaging laws from tobacco products to food and drink products.

Noting that outside Europe such laws have spread to these sectors, she says that the European Union may well decide to “follow the trend.”

“By relying almost solely on brand restrictions to address public health issues, governments have completely overlooked trademark rights and their value for the economy,” she says.

“INTA will continue its efforts to advocate for strong brand protection and to raise awareness on the negative consequences of brand restrictions.”

INTA, INTA 2018, Brexit, Hélène Nicora, EU, IP rights, trademarks