Dr. Sebastian Engels,

Dr. Sebastian Engels

“Over and out” – Brexit update on trade marks and designs after the end of the transition period

The transition period expired December 31, 2020 and UK now finally left the EU. Even though the negotiating parties came to a free trade and cooperation agreement on December 24, 2020, the rules from the Withdrawal Agreement remain in place and will regulate the covered IP rights going forward. We provide a refresher and update as to what this means for trade marks and designs.

Even though the EU Commission and the UK government agreed on the outlines of a free trade and cooperation agreement on December 24, 2020 which has been confirmed by EU and UK, respectively, in the meantime, this does not change the fact that, as of January 1, 2021, EU rights such as, in particular, EU trade marks and Community designs have lost their effect in the UK. The same applies to their counterparts under WIPO administration, i.e. International Registrations under the Madrid Protocol and the Hague Agreement. We have already provided detailed information about this on other occasion.

Here now, very briefly, are the main and updated implications since January 1, 2021, as they follow from the Withdrawal Agreement.

Cloning of registered EU rights

Registered EU trade marks and Community designs will be copied – cloned – completely, fully automatically and free of charge into the national register of the United Kingdom. In this respect, nothing further is required. The same applies to collective marks and certification marks. In view of the large number of IP rights, the process will take some time. We will keep the owners of IP rights represented by us apprised of any development and details.

Right of refiling for pending applications

Until September 30, 2021, it will be possible to file a fee-based national application for a pending IP right as a trade mark or design, and in particular to claim the priority of the EU application. The effect of this is that no third party could have acquired an IP right with better priority in the UK since the EU application was filed. We will work out a suitable IP strategy with the owners of IP rights represented by us.

International registrations of trade marks and designs

If international registrations designate the EU, the process described above will generally apply the same way. The IP rights are cloned into the United Kingdom or establish a refiling right in the national register. In any case, this means that these rights will initially leave the international regime under the administration of WIPO and become purely national rights. We will work with the owners of IP rights represented by us to find solutions to any related problems.

Unregistered IP rights

Unregistered Community designs will continue as “Continuing Unregistered Designs” for their remaining term of protection. In addition, a “Supplementary Unregistered Design” will be established for first publications in the United Kingdom, which will only be valid there. Unregistered trade mark rights are generally not recognized under EU law. However, the United Kingdom, like some other national legal systems of the EU member states, offers a fallback option, the so-called “passing off”, which, however, regularly depends on use in the United Kingdom (“goodwill”).

Continued identification of a clone

IP rights derived from EU rights will remain permanently identifiable by their registration numbers. They will continue in the UK with the original registration numbers and add national prefixes.

Ongoing proceedings and contracts

Pending proceedings in the UK based on an EU right will continue with the clone. The reverse does not apply: National UK rights lose their protection against EU rights. Proceedings are concluded automatically.

Existing treaties concerning the EU may have to be interpreted as to whether they continue to apply to the UK. We advise on how to avoid pitfalls and how to share any financial burdens between the parties appropriately.

Genuine use and reputation

Use of an EU trade mark in the UK will no longer maintain an EU right as of January 1, 2021. If there is no genuine use in the EU, the EU trademark will be subject to cancellation at the end of 2025. The reputation of an EU trade mark in the UK will already be definitively disregarded in the EU as of January 1, 2021.

Renewal and representation in the register

National clones are subject to the same expiration dates as EU rights. They can be renewed, and in some cases must be renewed in the short term. This also applies to those EU rights for which the fees have already been paid before the expiration of protection, but the expiration of protection is not until 2021. The fees must be paid again for the clones. The moderate costs for renewal have already been fixed by the UK Office. We will inform the owners of the IP rights we represent about deadlines and payment dates.

We will continue to represent the clones in the UK Register. This also applies to refilings.

Opt-out and strategic advice

IPR owners are not obliged to make use of the above options. Cloned IP rights can be abandoned by simple declaration (“opt-out”) free of official fees. The deadline for filing a subsequent application can remain unused. However, it is useful not only to consider each individual case but to develop an overall strategy for the UK. This may include adjusting the filing strategy overall. We advise with the aim of optimizing the administration and costs for the owners of IP rights.

Brexit is there

On January 31, 2020, 11 p.m. GMT, the UK has left the European Union. However, with no changes for businesses and consumers as of now. The Withdrawal Agreement includes a transitional period until December 31, 2020 within which EU laws fully continue to apply in and towards the UK.

It is generally possible to jointly extent this transitional period. EU bodies and the UK will use the transitional period to conclude an agreement to regulate their future relations.

We will continue to keep you updated regarding your rights and options following Brexit. For the time being, we may refer to our previous newsletters and client communications on our homepage, see here.