Draft Withdrawal Agreement Approved by UK Cabinet – IP and Marketing Authorisation Provisions Summarised

As was widely reported yesterday evening, the Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (the Draft Withdrawal Agreement (14 November 2018)), detailing the arrangements for the UK to leave the EU has now been agreed by the UK Cabinet. The draft is as agreed between the UK and the EU’s negotiators. As stated in HSF’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement webinar invitation here, a special European Council, anticipated to be held on 25 November 2018, will be asked to approve the Draft Withdrawal Agreement and the full text of the political declaration. The deal will also have to pass through the European Parliament. However, the main challenge to a deal being ratified is the requirement for approval by the UK Parliament. The first vote by the UK Parliament is expected within two weeks of the European Council.

We set out below a summary of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement’s provisions on intellectual property. The situation is not much changed from the previous draft issued in March 2018 although the provision for geographical indications has now been agreed: EU-wide rights will be replaced or recognised in the UK and provision has been made for pending applications, including for supplementary protection certificates (SPCs). The sharing of information for assessment of marketing authorisations between the MHRA and the EMA and vice versa is also provided for.

The Draft Withdrawal Agreement provides for an implementation/transition period from the date the UK leaves the EU (29 March 2019) to end of 31 December 2020. If the Draft Withdrawal Agreement is agreed, this transition period will mean that effectively the UK will continue to be treated as part of the EU from a legislative point of view. As the Commission’s press release puts it,”During this period, the entire Union acquis will continue to apply to and in the UK as if it were a Member State”. IP registrations and enforcement will carry on as normal during this period. Until the end of the transition period you will still be able to acquire/register and maintain EU-wide IP rights that will have effect in the UK. See the detail in our summary section below.  However, “as of the withdrawal date (i.e. including during the transition period), the UK, having left the EU, will no longer be part of EU decision-making. It will no longer be represented in the EU institutions, agencies and bodies, and persons appointed, nominated, or representing the UK, and persons elected in the UK, will no longer take part in the EU institutions, agencies, and bodies“.

The accompanying political agreement document “Outline of the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom” (currently a summary version, with a fuller version to follow) looks to the future relationship between the UK and the EU post-transition. There is mention of IP in the section on Economic Partnership, but all that is said is: “Protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights beyond multilateral treaties to stimulate innovation, creativity and economic activity”.  Under ‘Basis for cooperation’, the political agreement states that “Terms for the United Kingdom’s participation in Union programmes, subject to the conditions set out in the corresponding Union instruments, such as in science and innovation, culture and education, development, defence capabilities, civil protection and space”. There is also mention of “Cooperation in matters of health security”.  For more on the impact of no deal on the pharma industry see our post on the UK Government’s “no deal technical notices” published on 23 August 2018.

Summary of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement’s provision for IP and marketing authorisations:

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UK Government agrees elements of the European Commission’s proposals for post-Brexit protection of EU-wide IP rights in the UK in the latest draft of the Withdrawal Agreement

In the latest draft of the Withdrawal Agreement (19 March 2018) the UK Government and European Commission negotiators appear to have agreed text providing for the replacement of EU-wide IP rights having effect in the UK with equivalent UK rights at the end of the transition period post-Brexit (until 31 December 2020). Further, during the transition period, EU-wide rights will still apply to the UK due to the effect of Article 122 which provides that EU law will be applicable to the UK during the transition period and that it will produce the same legal effects in respect of and in the UK as those which is produces within the EU and its Member States and shall be interpreted and applied in accordance with the same methods and general principles, and that during the transition period, any reference to Member States in EU law shall be understood as including the UK.

Other IP related measures include provision for dealing with: exhaustion of rights, pending applications, international registrations designating the EU and the effect of invalidity proceedings that are “on foot” at the end of the transition period, (see Articles 50-57).  Certain provisions (highlighted in green) are now listed as agreed between negotiators, whilst others are still just proposals from the Commission (those un-highlighted) including those on GIs, SPCs and who pays the administration costs involved.

There are still unresolved issues for those who hold IP rights in the EU and those who license (in or out) EU-wide IP rights or have agreements linked to the “EU” as territory, which we discuss below.

Despite the areas of current agreement, there remains the possibility of a “no deal” scenario in relation to the whole agreement, in which case none of the areas agreed would stand (although the UK Government could make separate arrangements to create equivalent rights at the moment of Brexit). Anything agreed between the Commission and the UK under the Withdrawal Agreement needs European Council approval and then European Parliament approval. Thus, although a good start has been made on agreeing the post-Brexit fate of EU-wide IP rights currently having effect in the UK, the final arrangements are still far from certain. Indeed, if the Withdrawal Agreement is not accepted then there will be no transition period at all and a “hard” Brexit will come into effect on 30 March 2019, with all that implies for IP rights (see our comments from January 2017 here).

In summary, the proposals in the revised Withdrawal Agreement, and problems associated with them, are:

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BREXIT AND IP – LAW SOCIETY NOTE CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT ACTION

The exact mechanics of how Brexit will materialise and what it would mean for intellectual property rights in the UK is still unclear. However, time is now running short and the main representative bodies for IP practitioners have become concerned that IP rights (which are some of the assets most likely to be adversely impacted by Brexit – indeed in some cases at risk of being lost without specific provision being made by the UK Government prior to Brexit) have not been receiving the attention they require.

On 22 December, a note was sent to the UK Government by the Law Society which had been contributed to and signed by representatives of the IP Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales, and of the IP Bar Association, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA) and the IP Federation (whose website also carries a copy of the note).

The note makes the case for the UK as a key IP forum and identifies “a short list of the biggest areas where Government action is necessary to ensure continuity and certainty of IP law and to prevent disruption both to undertakings which use IP services and IP service providers“.

The following are some of the key recommendations made by the note:

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Brexit: Intellectual Property

Whatever future relationship the UK has with the rest of the EU, the effect of the Great Repeal Bill, once enacted, will mean that any existing intellectual property law having effect in the UK will continue to apply as it did post-Brexit, although it will be for the UK Government to adapt or amend it subsequently. That means that intellectual property law will continue to contain all of the concepts implemented from EU Directives or applicable from EU Regulations. However, EU-wide rights defined as applying “in the EU” will no longer apply in the UK and the Government will need to  consider providing replacement rights, provision for which would need to be in place prior to Brexit.

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Brexit – what IP issues to consider now

We set out our thoughts and predictions upon how protection and enforcement of IP in the UK may be impacted once Brexit arrives. We have also suggested some immediate action points for consideration in the weeks or months to come, prior to Brexit, to ensure that your business is best protected prior to any changes.

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