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Brexit Brands Toolkit: Preparing Brand Owners for Brexit

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What is at stake?

On June 23, 2016, a referendum was held in the United Kingdom (UK) to decide whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain in the European Union (EU). The decision to leave won over the decision to stay by 52% to 48%. It is now expected that in March 2017 the UK government will trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), starting formal negotiations to leave the European Union.

Beyond being unprecedented (it will be the first time that an EU Member State will have left the European Union), the process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union—commonly known as “Brexit”—will be complex at all levels. While the length of the process (two years or more) and outcome of the negotiations remain unclear, the consequences of Brexit will be far-reaching and will impact the United Kingdom and its EU and global trading partners in many and possibly unforeseen ways.

Companies across all industries and of all shapes and sizes will be affected in a variety of ways, including in areas related to intellectual property and corporate brand protection. What will be the impact of Brexit on the European Union Trade Mark (EUTM)? What will be its impact on the United Kingdom’s participation and influence in the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)? How will Brexit affect registration and protection of trademarks, designs, geographical indications, and other intellectual property rights currently harmonized under EU legislation? How will Brexit impact IP protection in the EU Customs Union? What will the effects be on the UK legal profession? How will companies based in or trading with the United Kingdom be affected? 

While many of these questions remain unanswered, INTA has followed developments to ensure that its international membership has access to current information on how Brexit could impact them and to offer guidance as to steps they can take to anticipate these changes. While it is likely that many decisions will be made at a political level by UK and EU authorities, INTA will continue following Brexit policy-related issues closely, working directly with the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), EUIPO, relevant EU authorities, and as many other stakeholders as possible to try and ensure that IP and brand-related issues are properly considered as negotiations take place.

Key dates

  • On June 23, 2016, a referendum was held in the United Kingdom to decide whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain in the European Union. The decision to leave won by 52% to 48%.

  • On August 2, 2016, the UKIPO published a guide entitled “IP and Brexit: the Facts,” available here.

  • On January 17, 2017, UK Prime Minister Teresa May laid out her vision in a landmark speech. While she said that “Brexit means Brexit,” there is a lot of debate about what that will mean in practice, especially concerning the two key issues of how British firms will do business in the European Union and what limitations will be placed on the rights of EU nationals to live and work in the United Kingdom. More of her negotiating hopes can be found in in her key speech on Brexit.

  • On February 1, 2017, the House of Commons voted to advance the bill that would give Prime Minister Theresa May the authority to invoke Article 50 of the TFEU—the formal process of leaving the European Union.

  • In March, 2017, it is expected that the UK Prime Minister will trigger Article 50, starting formal negotiations to leave the European Union.

INTA in Action

  • On June 24, 2016, a media statement by INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo announced the formation of a Brexit Rapid Response Group to advise INTA following the UK referendum on EU membership.

  • The Rapid Response Group is composed of Anna Carboni (Redd Solicitors LLP), Michael Hawkins (Noerr Alicante IP, S.L.), Sheila Henderson (Richemont), Keith Howick (Carpmaels & Ransford), Sarah Lambeth (BP plc), Jeremy Newman (Rouse) and Zorita Pop (Reckitt Benckiser plc).

  • In October 2016, INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo met with corporate representatives in London to exchange their concerns about Brexit. The event was organized by INTA members Elipe Limited and Mathys & Squire LLP.

  • In 2016 and 2017, INTA has been represented at various meetings with the UKIPO to exchange on the impact of Brexit on brands and IP rights, and assess the various possible approaches.

  • In March 2017, INTA published the Brexit Brands Toolkit: Preparing Brand Owners for Brexit. Drafted by INTA’s Brexit Rapid Response Group, this document serves as a guide for companies on key Brexit issues and on determining the allocation of sufficient resources to prepare a company’s brands for Brexit.