London
16 March 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

UKIPO ‘working hard’ to push IP issues in Brexit negotiations


The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) is working hard to push intellectual property issues to the forefront of Brexit negotiations, attendees heard at the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys Spring Conference in London.

According to Adam Williams, acting head of international policy at the UKIPO, there is an “enormous amount of work going on to tackle the challenges of IP rights post-Brexit”.

“When I agreed to speak [at the conference], I thought we may have some more concrete detail on Brexit—but that is not the case,” he conceded, However, despite “grave uncertainty” about what the UK’s exit from the EU might mean, the UKIPO is optimistic about a good deal.

Williams outlined just how complicated the situation is, with changes needed post-Brexit in trademarks, the exhaustion regime, provisions for design rights, rights of representations and geographical identifiers, as well as across copyright and patents.

The UKIPO is looking into other, less obvious avenues, such as select partnerships with the EU Intellectual Property Office, but it is still too early to tell how negotiations will go.

As always, the UKIPO is looking for advice and opinion on the negotiations. Williams said that the UKIPO is “really interested to hear diverse views on the UK’s IP framework and how to handle this change”.

The UK is primed to pull the trigger on Article 50 and commence the two-year negotiation process that will end in its exit from the EU.

The so-called Brexit bill was was passed earlier this week, giving the government the power to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. It is expected to so at the end of March.

When the UK formally notifies the EU of its intention to leave the 59-year-old political union, negotiations can begin on the terms of its exit. The process can take no more than two years, unless the European Council approves an extension.

Membership of the EU is complex, with many aspects of UK legislation intertwined with or underpinned by regulations and directives designed in Brussels.

UK ministers will have to simultaneously negotiate the terms of the exit from the EU, lobby for and begin discussions about a new trade deal with the 27 remaining member states, do the same with every other country around the world, and begin reforming its own laws.

The mooted Great Repeal Bill will preserve EU law in UK legislation in one fell swoop, although this is still subject to the parliamentary scrutiny that almost derailed the Brexit bill.

The House of Lords voted in favour of amendments requiring the Brexit bill to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK, as well as giving the full Parliament a substantive vote on the government’s final deal with the EU.

But the House of Commons defeated those amendments, with politicians widely fearful of a public backlash if they are seen to be delaying or attempting to overturn the Brexit process.

The UK voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favour of exiting the EU in June 2016, after former Primer Minister David Cameron launched the referendum to appease eurosceptic Conservative colleagues.

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