Draft withdrawal agreement approved by cabinet – what it means for IP

The draft withdrawal agreement was approved by the cabinet yesterday, giving the green light for it to be reviewed and potentially agreed at an extraordinary European Council summit, anticipated later this month.

The good news for EU trade mark and design rights holders is that the agreement has remained almost the same as previous versions, with the proposal that those rights will continue to be valid in the UK post-Brexit. Article 54 of the withdrawal agreement confirms that owners of EU trade marks, provided they have been registered or granted before the end of the 21-month transition period, will ‘without any re-examination, become the holder of a comparable registered and enforceable right in the UK’. This is also applicable to registered community designs, and geographical indications (GI), with all new UK rights being provided free of charge.

The draft withdrawal agreement is also in-line with the UK Government’s ‘no deal’ proposal should the withdrawal agreement not become law.

In addition, the agreement confirms that a person authorised to appear before the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and who is representing a party in a ‘procedure’ before the end of the transition period can continue to represent that party beyond the end of the transition.

With the transition period currently anticipated to run until December 2020, this gives firms the confidence to continue with their existing UK attorneys for all of their European IP requirements. Also, as no clarity has yet been given on whether UK professional representatives will retain their rights to practice before the EUIPO it is conceivable that this may still happen.

Regardless, many UK IP firms are putting provisions in place to be able to support firms with their EU requirements post-Brexit, such as Vault IP, and so whatever the outcome, firms can be assured of continuity of service from their UK attorney.