The question of how this will impact EU trade marks is one of the myriad of uncertainties that have been raised by this historic decision.
The decision of the British people to leave the EU will have huge and far reaching consequences, the full impact of which nobody can be certain of at this stage.
The referendum decision itself does not have any legal force, and does not immediately remove the UK from the EU. For this to take place, the UK must file a notice of withdrawal with the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. This is likely to take place in the next few months. After that, negotiations will commence with regards to the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Article 50 allows 2 years for these negotiations to take place. After that 2 year period has been completed, the UK will no longer be part of the EU.
It is expected that the UK will try and negotiate to obtain a situation similar to the one that Switzerland or Norway currently have in place with the EU. This will probably require that the UK retain much of the current EU legislation but will allow access to the “common market” of the EU.
However, the UK is unlikely to remain a part of the EU trade mark system after it leaves the EU (probably sometime in 2018). After that time, it is likely that EU trade marks will no longer cover the UK. Therefore, it is also likely that after that time filing UK national trade marks alongside EU trade mark filings will be advisable if coverage in both the EU and the UK is desired.
All that is possible to do at this stage is to speculate. However, it seems likely that EU trade marks that were registered prior to the UK leaving the EU will continue to be protected in the UK as if those marks were UK registrations.
Therefore, although the UK’s decision to leave the EU will create numerous challenges (as well as opportunities) trade mark protection will hopefully not be too complex an issue. “Brexit” will most likely mean only the requirement to file trade mark applications separately in the UK and Europe, if protection in both jurisdictions is required.
We shall continue to keep our clients informed of all developments. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any concerns or queries.