16 January 2019Trademarks

Lawyers express concern after UK rejects Brexit deal

The future of IP rights remains unclear post-Brexit after UK politicians last night rejected the Withdrawal Agreement, according to lawyers.

The Withdrawal Agreement, negotiated by the British government and the EU, was rejected in a House of Commons vote yesterday, January 15.

Members of Parliament rejected the deal by 432 votes to 202, in the largest ever parliamentary defeat for a sitting UK government.

Roland Mallinson, partner at Taylor Wessing in London and chair of Marques’ Brexit task force, told WIPR that the vote is concerning for trademark owners as it increases the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.

The previously proposed transition period, which was due to run from March 30, 2019 to December 31, 2020, would have allowed for a “more orderly preparation for brand owners and their advisers”, he said.

Mallinson also expressed concern at the prospect of industry having to fight the same cases in the UK and EU jurisdictions. Under the terms of the deal, the UK Intellectual Property Office would have undertaken to implement the outcomes of pending cancellation and revocation actions against EU trademarks (EUTMs).

There is also uncertainty over whether “designers first showing their works in the UK will, post-Brexit, benefit from unregistered design protection in the EU”, he added.

The British government has previously issued guidance on a no-deal Brexit. Last September, the government guaranteed that all EUTMs and registered Community designs would be converted into UK rights for free in the event of no deal.

David Stone, partner at Allen & Overy in London, told WIPR today that the risks for IP owners have not changed in the wake of last night’s vote.

Stone said that “if there’s to be another suggested deal, it’s likely that the IP aspects of it would be similar” to the Withdrawal Agreement. “IP preparations for a crash-out Brexit remain in place”, including replicating all EUTM registrations in the UK, he said.

Flip Petillion, founder of the law firm Petillion, based in Brussels,  said that he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the vote.

Speaking to WIPR, Petillion said that IP owners in the EU would have been happy with the approach outlined in the deal.

Clients are keen for more legal certainty around Brexit, Petillion said.

WIPR approached the UK-based Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys for a comment on last night’s vote and a spokesperson said that, “deal or no deal”, European patent work would remain unaffected as the European Patent Office is independent of the EU.

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More on this story

23 July 2018   The UK government will convert existing EU trademarks and designs for free after Brexit, according to statements made during a House of Commons debate on Thursday, July 19.
16 April 2019   The European Intellectual Property Office has reinstated opposition and invalidity proceedings that are based solely on UK rights.
23 January 2020   Almost half of UK and European businesses expect to change their brand protection strategies after the UK leaves the EU, although 31% don’t know how they’ll register trademarks, according to a report from IP specialists HGF.