The parliament of the United Kingdom (UK) has now ratified the European Union (EU) Withdrawal Agreement that will enable the UK to formally "leave" the EU on 31 January 2020. This date will mark the beginning of an 11-month transition period, with the true exit date currently set as 31 December 2020 (Exit Day).
During this time, the current status quo will be maintained, i.e. nothing will change before 31 December 2020 in relation to EU trade mark and design protection in the UK.
In this regard, it is important to note that during the transition period:
- the UK will continue to be protected by EU trade mark and design registrations; and
- the filing of EU trade mark and design applications will still include the UK.
If negotiations between the EU and the UK are not successfully concluded during the transition period, the period could be extended.
It is, however, important to note that at the end of the transition period:
- Registered EU marks: UK registrations will automatically be created for all existing EU registrations. This process will give the registered EUTM owner a comparable UK mark (i.e. with the same filing date) at no additional cost; and
- Pending EU trade marks: owners of EUTMs that are pending on Exit Day (i.e. filed marks that have not yet been registered) will be able to make applications to the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) for comparable marks for a period of 9 months following Exit Day. While the owner will receive the same filing date as the EU mark, there will be registry fees payable to the UKIPO.
- Renewal of comparable UK trade marks: owners of comparable marks will be required to pay renewal fees to the UKIPO, which will be due at the same time as renewal fees are payable to the EUIPO.
While the long-term impact of Brexit is that EU trade marks will no longer protect trade marks in the UK (such that it will be necessary to apply for registrations in both the EU and UK to gain the same geographical protection in the future), for now there will be no change to the EU trade mark system for some time.