Recently released data from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) shows that EU Trade Mark (EUTM) filings from the UK were down almost 7% in 2016. This is the first time in recent years that EUTM filings from the UK have fallen, and commentators have been quick to ask whether the effects of Brexit are already being felt in the Trade Mark world.
Since the historic decision taken by the British people on 23 June 2016 to leave the EU, many businesses have had to review all aspects of their operations, including their approach to protecting intellectual property. When judged against the backdrop of the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote, our view is that a small variance in EUTM filings for 2016 is not a cause for concern.
By contrast, filing figures released by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) for the period September 2015 to September 2016 indicate that national UK Trade Mark applications increased by 10%.
The decline in EU filings and increase in UK applications suggest that many UK-based/focused Trade Mark owners are taking steps to shore up protection in their “home” market. This is a trend we expect to continue until the exact mechanism by which EU Trade Marks will take effect in a post-Brexit UK becomes clear.
As the European Union is the UK’s largest export market, UK businesses will still want to protect their IP rights in Europe and the EUTM system is a cost-effective means of securing Trade Mark protection across all EU member states. To this end, it is recommended that separate Trade Mark protection is sought in the UK and the EU (if it seems likely that the UK is core to your business). This will provide greater certainty in relation to Trade Mark protection in the UK, and may also avoid the need to convert EUTMs at a later stage.
Though the full implications of Brexit remain unclear at present, we are keen to remind Trade Mark owners that at times of significant change, opportunities present themselves. What will not change is the fact that Trade Mark rights are territorial. As such, regardless of where a Trade Mark owner is based, they should be looking to protect their rights in any territory where their products or services are to be marketed.
Our experienced Trade Mark practitioners at Albright IP are well-placed to provide advice on the best and most cost-effective routes for securing Trade Mark protection in the UK, Europe and elsewhere.