The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union will have a profound effect on the relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). “Brexit” raises some fundamental questions relating to trade marks which are currently registered in the EU and therefore at present apply in the UK. It is unlikely that any significant developments will occur for some time to come and EU trade mark registrations will continue to apply in the UK in advance of the UK’s exit. It is almost certain, however, that when the UK leaves the EU, trade marks registered in the EU will no longer apply in the UK.

It is hoped that the transition from EU based protection to protection in the UK will be orderly and will not result in a loss of rights.

Arising from the uncertainty of the future position of EU trade marks which apply in the UK, however, we are recommending to clients that instead of waiting to see what might happen in the future, trade marks which are used significantly in the UK should independently be protected there without delay by filing new UK national applications.

The UKIPO does not examine applications on relative grounds and it is very likely that those applications will proceed to grant without difficulty or delay. When that occurs, there will be no need to be concerned about what might eventually happen to rights in the UK which derive from existing EU registrations.

It is also possible, however, that the UK profession will be unable to practice directly before the EU Intellectual Property Office.

Ireland will remain within the EU and members of the Irish profession will continue to represent clients directly before the EU Intellectual Property Office.

Although MacLachlan & Donaldson’s practice is based in Ireland, M&D owns Ansons, the oldest established practice in Northern Ireland which is of course an integral part of the UK. Consequently, MacLachlan & Donaldson will continue to practise directly before the EU Intellectual Property Office and also before the UK Intellectual Property Office. We recommend that the owners of EU trade marks, which are substantially used within the UK and effectively represent an important part of the company’s portfolio of trade marks, should consider protecting those trade marks separately within the UK without undue delay.