“BREXIT” IMPACT ON TRADEMARKS IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
With the recent decision by voters in the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU), questions, concerns, and issues accompany the “Brexit.” On June 23, 2016, voters in the UK decided that their country will no longer be a part of the EU—this vote is known as the “Brexit,” for “British Exit.”
Left in the wake of this decision are many questions regarding how the laws, economy, and trade will be affected. One of these issues includes trademarks. Though there are many more questions than answers at this point, the below outlines some of the main issues surrounding the impact on trademarks due to the Brexit.
Change in Scope of EU Trademark
When an owner files a trademark through the EU, that owner is afforded a single right which is valid in the member states—with the UK leaving, the count is now at 27. The EU trademark does not afford the owner an individual right in each member state; rather, the single right is recognized in all member states. With the UK leaving the EU, protection offered by an EU trademark registration would no longer extend to the UK.
The scope of the EU trademark registration protection has shrunk unless the owner also has a separate UK trademark registration. If an owner of a mark can claim a right based on use in the UK, but the trademark is an EU registration, then it is no longer recognized in the UK. This is an issue that will be dealt with legislatively in the months to come.
The UK and the EU can still reach an agreement and pass legislation allowing trademarks to remain effective; additionally, they can (as some have predicted) draft legislation that would allow a conversion of EU trademarks into UK trademarks. Furthermore, the UK could negotiate to join the European Economic Area (EEA) which would help to maintain economic ties with the EU and preserve trademark rights.
There is no immediate impact, though, as the UK will negotiate its withdrawal from the EU. The decision to withdraw from the EU must be submitted by the UK to the EU Council, then the Council will issue guidelines. The UK and Council will negotiate the withdrawal and the basic structure of UK’s relationship with the EU in the months to come. The outcome of those negotiations will determine the landscape of trademark rights throughout Europe.
For now, we are all waiting for the UK to formally submit their withdrawal from the EU. Once that occurs, negotiations will begin regarding the economic, trade, and legal relationship the UK will have with the rest of Europe. Namely, it will be important to keep an eye on how EU trademarks will be treated and whether or not a conversion process will be put in place.
By Preston L. Ryan, Law Clerk
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This post is for informational purposes only, and merely recites the general rules of the road. Lots of legal rules have exceptions, however, and every case is unique. Never rely solely on a blog post in evaluating your situation — always contact an attorney when your legal rights and obligations are on the line.