Legal safeguards businesses have put in place to protect their trademarks and design rights in the UK may not be valid when we officially exit the European Union.

If you used a European-wide right to protect your IP it will no longer be valid in the UK when we leave, which could result in infringements on your own doorstep.

How firms have used IP rights prior to Brexit

It used to be more cost-effective to take out a European-wide intellectual property right, rather than a UK right to protect your brand, patent, copyright or trademark, even if you were operating exclusively in the UK.

What will happen following the exit from the EU?

You won’t be protected in the UK as we won’t be part of Europe when we officially exit if you only have a European right. You will have renegotiate or take out another right to protect your interests in the UK. A business operating in the UK and one or more European countries will need to apply for two separate registrations – a UK right and a European right.

So what should you do?

Act now. Go through your historical files and check which kind of protection you enjoy. It is better to give it your time now than have to pay for a solicitor in due course to fight an action. Businesses invest substantially in their brand, name or product so it is vital to protect it from sub-standard copiers that could ruin your name by masquerading as you and affecting your bottom-line profits.

For some businesses, ensuring they are protected in the UK may not be a big deal if they have only a handful of protected rights, but for companies such as those in the pharmaceutical industry, which register thousands of trademarks and patents, it will be an expensive enterprise and take a lot of administration.

So how much does IP protection cost?

It is actually not that expensive for individual protection: the two main rights are Design Rights, which are £60 for each right and Trademarks, which are £170 for each ‘one class’ entry. If the same business wants an additional class it is £50 per class. If you wanted European protection (although not including the UK in due course) you can pay 600 Euros.

Will there be a transitional grace period?

Very likely, but don’t rely on this. The government hasn’t made any statement about the IP rights at present but from a legal point of view it is not hard to see that the current EU-wide protections will not apply in the UK.

It is expected that there may be a three-year transitional period for businesses to get their houses in order after we leave the EU, but this still has to be negotiated by our government.

If I apply now for a UK right how long will it take?

If you apply to register with the IP office the process is typically about six months. You can do it yourself but it can be quite technical and it can be easy to miss things.

By Stephen Avila, Birkett Long