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Covid-19 Outbreak – SH&P Response

The global coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) will impact on us all to a certain degree.  SH&P is committed to maintaining the health and welfare of its staff and to minimising any disruption of our services. The UK Government has moved from a state of containment to one of delay.  Its official approach and guidance to individuals and businesses will evolve rapidly over the coming weeks.  SH&P will be following this advice and is also taking its own measures to mitigate the effect of the virus on our staff and clients alike.

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Our View

Summary – 10th February 2020

  • No immediate change after 31st January 2020
  • SH&P will continue to provide all of the same services (at the same cost) after the end of the transition period, which currently stands at 31st December 2020
  • Should you have any queries or wish us to review a portfolio then don’t hesitate to contact us

Brexit Day

At the stroke of 11pm on Friday 31st January 2020, the UK “left” the EU.

In consequence of the Withdrawal Agreement, a transition period is now in effect to facilitate bilateral trade negotiations.  This will run until 31st December 2020, although there is scope for an extension with the mutual agreement of London and Brussels.

During this transition period EU law shall continue to apply here so there will be no immediate change any of our laws.

So how does this affect your IP?

Are my European Union Trade Marks (EUTMs) and Community Registered Designs (CRDs) still in force in the UK?

The short answer is “yes”.

During the transition period EUTMs and CRDs will continue to extend to the UK.  Ultimately, the final procedures for maintaining extant EUTM/CRD protection in the UK “post-Brexit” will only be confirmed upon completion of a trade deal or in the unlikely scenario of a “no deal” exit.

Either way, the UK Office (UKIPO) is committed to ensuring that there is no arbitrary loss of rights.

What happens when the transition period ends?

Under Article 54 of the Withdrawal Agreement all “EU” rights enjoying registered status on the UK register at the conclusion of the transition period will be automatically duplicated by means of cloned registrations.

These equivalent rights will suffer no loss of priority or seniority.  The UK IPO will make no charge for creating these rights on the national register.  If required, rights’ holders will be able to opt-out of the UK equivalent protection procedure.  The UKIPO will confirm the precise mechanism for doing so at a later date.

The UKIPO has yet to confirm the exact working procedures for the creation of UK equivalent rights.

In its October 2019 briefing paper, the Office proposed that new “cloned” registrations will be entered using the original EU filing number with the prefix “UK009”.  For example, existing EUTM Registration no. 000123456 will appear on the UK Register as UK00900123456.

How will I know if my registrations have been “cloned”?

As a matter of routine, we will be monitoring the status of all EUTMs and CRDs contained within our records and, come the appropriate time, advising clients of the newly cloned UK registration details and of the opt-out procedure.

We are more than happy to extend this monitoring and reporting service to third parties upon receipt of a schedule of your, or your client’s, EUTM and CRD registrations.  There will be no charge for this.

If you would like us to monitor your trade mark or design portfolio then please contact us.

Do I need a UK address for service?

Strictly-speaking, there will be no requirement for the holders of the newly created cloned UK rights to appoint a UK-based representative during the three years immediately following the end of the transition period.

However, we suggest making a suitable appointment at the outset since this will ensure that any matters requiring local legal expertise, such as a third-party invalidation or revocation action, will be reviewed by an appropriately qualified UK attorney as a matter of course.

In this regard, SH&P will be making no charge for appointing ourselves as address for service and entering details in our records.

What about pending applications?

Where pending EUTMs and CRDS are concerned, Article 59 of the Withdrawal Agreement states that applicants will have a nine month “sunrise” period from the end of the transition period within which to make a corresponding UK national application without fear of losing the original EU filing date, priority date or applicable UK seniority date.

Such applications will be subject to the usual UKIPO official fees and will undergo examination in the usual way.  We will monitor the status of all pending applications in our care to ensure that clients have adequate notice of the need to refile.  Again, we can offer this service to non-clients if supplied with details of relevant pending EUTM and CRD applications which could require re-filing after termination of the transition period.

In all cases, SH&P will be offering a significantly discounted rate for filing and prosecuting applications made under the Article 59 provisions.  Further information will appear on our website shortly.

Can SH&P continue to look after my intellectual property (IP) needs for the EU?

During the transition period there will be no change.  SH&P will continue to file, prosecute and maintain EUTMs and CRDs.  Furthermore, we can continue to represent you in any proceedings ongoing at the end of transition period until their completion.

Looking ahead, the UK Government and relevant professional bodies continue to lobby the EU Commission/EUIPO regarding UK Attorney rights of audience.  It remains to be seen where this goes but, in truth, we are working on the presumption that UK-based attorneys and lawyers will no longer be able to act directly.

With this in mind, we have taken suitable steps to ensure continuity for our clients and retain the ability to offer a full range of attorney services in relation to filing, prosecution and maintenance of EUTMs and RCDs.

SH&P does not currently have offices outside the UK.  We have considered this option and have certainly not ruled it out but, for the foreseeable future, we have decided to use the services of our extensive overseas partners to act as SH&P proxies.  The cost of implementing and operating this system will be borne by us.

In consequence, our clients will neither see an increase in costs nor a drop in service levels as a result of Brexit.  Effectively it will be business as usual.

Needless to say, all of our attorneys and para-legal staff will continue to study EUTM law and practice such that we are able to advise on EUTM and RCD matters to the same extent.

Do I need to do anything differently from 1st February 2020 onwards?

This one is easy, “no”.

Until such time that EU law ceases to have effect in the UK, you can continue to use the EUTM and CRD system.

As negotiations between the EU and UK progress, and the transition period deadline approaches, there will come a time when it might be prudent to consider seeking independent UK protection as well as EU protection.  This will be a judgment call depending on whether there is a commercial benefit to you in protecting a trade mark or design in the UK as well as in the remaining 27 Member States of the EU.

SH&P’s ongoing commitment to you

This is a historic change which is now taking place in Europe, but regardless of the legal implications to your IP, you can be confident that SH&P will continue to provide the same level of high quality service and at no additional cost.

If you would like to receive any further information, guidance or have any queries on how Brexit may affect your IP, or if you have any IP-related questions in general, then please don’t hesitate to call on +44 (0)117 922 6007 or contact us through this website.


March 2019Brexit, SH&P's view

Despite the best efforts of the UK parliament, great uncertainty remains as we approach 29th March 2019, particularly for business.  Although the UK could leave the EU with “no deal” in less than a month’s time, you do not need to be unduly concerned about maintaining your IP rights.  SH&P has taken suitable steps to ensure no last minute action will be required.  

Trade Marks

When the UK exits the European Union, whether by negotiated deal or no deal, all registered European Union Trade Marks (“EUTMs”) will be automatically extended to the UK.  These “cloned” registrations will be referred to as “comparable UK trade marks” and are created automatically with no official fee to pay.  SH&P will notify our clients upon creation and input details in our records at no cost.  It is possible to opt-out of the creation of new UK rights provided that the “comparable UK trade mark” has not been used in the UK on or after Brexit day, is the subject of an assignment, licence, security interest or other transaction or if it is relied upon in proceedings.  

For pending applications it will be possible to maintain rights in the UK by refiling via the UKIPO.  There will be no loss of priority provided this is done within 9 months of the UK’s exit from the European Union.  Such applications will be examined under UK law and will be subject to the usual acceptance criteria and processes.  The standard UKIPO official fee will apply. In order to minimise our clients’ cost exposure, SH&P will only make a nominal charge of £200 per refiling irrespective of the number of classes involved.  As long as no objections or oppositions are filed a nominal prosecution fee of £50 will then be charged on registration.

It is possible that newly created cloned UK registrations will require renewal if the corresponding EUTM renewal date falls within the first six months after Brexit. Unfortunately this requirement cannot be avoided through early renewal. In such cases, we will notify you of the relevant date and associated renewal fees.

Designs

The UK has confirmed that provision will be made to create equivalent enforceable registrations in the UK for existing fully published Registered Community Designs (“RCDs”). These rights will retain the filing, registration, priority and renewal dates of the corresponding RCD.  As with EUTM’s no charge will be made for the creation of these “comparable UK designs” by the UKIPO or SH&P.  It is possible to opt-out of the creation of new UK rights provided that the “comparable UK design” is not the subject of an assignment, licence, security interest or other transaction or if it is relied upon in proceedings.  

Where an RCD is pending at the date of exit, Applicants will be afforded the opportunity to refile via the UKIPO.  A 9 month refiling window will also apply with the standard UKIPO official fees payable.  The SH&P service charge for refiling will be will be significantly discounted (£175) irrespective of the number of designs claimed by the application.

Unregistered Community Designs are governed by EU legislation and are completely separate from the UK unregistered design right. The UK government will ensure that all unregistered Community designs, existing when the UK exits the EU, will continue to have effect in the UK for the same legal duration. 

Patents

The European Patent Office (EPO) is not an EU body.  As such, the procedure for obtaining European patents is unaffected by the UK’s exit from the EU whatever the circumstance.

The new unitary patent will also be administered by the EPO. The Unified Patent Court (“UPC”) is intended to hear cases relating to European and unified patents. It has yet to be ratified by the participating 25 EU countries which include the UK. In the event of “no deal” the UK Government envisages two potential outcomes:-

  1. The UPC will not come into force due to a failure to secure unanimous ratification.
  1. If the UPC does comes into force the UK will be required to negotiate whether it is possible (or desirable) to be party to the unitary patent system. In this scenario, The UK may have to withdraw from the unitary patent and the UPC but both would remain available to UK businesses via contracting EU countries.  However, specific UK protection would need to be secured by means of national or EPO patents.

Although possible, it is highly unlikely that the unitary patent system will be in place by 29th March 2019.  However, the UK Government has given assurances that any existing unitary patents will extend separately to the UK automatically.

Representation and ongoing proceedings before the EUIPO

It remains to be seen whether UK attorneys will retain the right to practise before the EUIPO.  Discussions are ongoing amongst interested parties in this regard.  Whatever the outcome, you can rest assured that SH&P has taken suitable steps to ensure we will  continue to provide a full EUIPO filing, prosecution and maintenance service at no increased cost.  

What happens now?

If the UK leaves the European Union by means of a negotiated agreement, a transitional period will immediately come into force.  Based on the current time line this would run until 31st December 2020 but could be extended up to 31st December 2022.  During the transitional period all existing arrangements between the UK and EU would continue to run.  This includes IP legislation. On this basis there will be no need to adopt a change of strategy for maintaining IP protection in the UK and EU during the transitional period. 

In the event of no deal, no action will be required in relation to existing registered EUTM and RCDs.  The UKIPO will automatically notify IP rights holders or their legal representatives when “cloned” registrations are created. All such rights will be entered into SH&P’s records and will be monitored in the usual way.

It will be necessary to refile any pending EUTM or design applications via the UK IPO if protection is required in the UK post-Brexit.  However, there will be no immediate urgency to do so given the 9 month sun rise period permitted for refiling purposes.  Nevertheless, SH&P will be providing all clients with advance notice of any pending EUTM or RCDs where refiling may be needed to maintain UK rights should a cliff-edge Brexit transpire on 29th March 2019 or at any subsequent date (if the Article 50 deadline is extended).

If you require any further information at how BREXIT effects your business, please contact your usual SH&P contact or via mail@shandp.com.


January 2019 SH&P Article 50 Brexit

From the outset, we have encouraged clients to continue use of EU IPO registration services since the risk of any loss of rights post-Brexit is extremely low. On this basis, we advised that it was not necessary to refile existing European Union Trade Marks (“EUTM”) or Registered Designs (”RCD”) unless there were specific reasons for achieving absolute certainty ahead of 29th March 2019. 

This remains the case.  However, with the anticipated exit date approaching, and the shape of any final exit deal far from clear, we think our clients would now benefit from additional guidance.  

Below is a summary of the UK Government’s latest position on existing EUTMs/RCDs and the anticipated procedures for maintaining such rights in the future.

Negotiated Deal

There is still great uncertainty as to the nature of the final deal and when it might come into effect.  Withdrawal from the EU is only the first part of what promise to be extended negotiations on bi-lateral trade agreements and legal arrangements. Fortunately, the UK government has been resolute in confirming that any exit deal negotiated with the European Union will not adversely affect the legal scope of existing EUTMs and RCDs. This is welcome news.

For registrations, upon exit from the EU, the UK IPO will create equivalent UK national rights mirroring the existing EU counterpart. These will be created automatically at no cost to the brand owner.  SH&P will incorporate these changes within our records system as soon as the final negotiated deal is confirmed. You can be confident that come the UK’s exit the information held in our records will accurately reflect your portfolio.  

It remains to be seen how the issue of pending applications and open contentious cases at the time of the UK’s exit will be addressed. For applications, the current draft deal proposes that the holders of EUTMs and RCD’s will have the option to refile in the UK without loss of priority. Such applications will then undergo examination at national level in the usual way. The continued prosecution of contentious matters is less certain because circumstances will differ from case to case. For example, some disputes will be rendered moot if an EUTM has been opposed purely on the basis of an earlier UK right. 

Further information on the procedure and fees for refiling or ongoing prosecution of pending matters will be made available by the UK government following approval of the final deal by parliament and the EU Commission.  

No-deal

Again, official assurances have been given that equivalent UK protection will be created to that stemming from an extant EUTM or RCD registration. The exact process has yet to be confirmed save that the duplicate rights will be made with “minimal administrative burden”.  No official fees are anticipated in this regard.  

In the case of pending applications, trade mark and design applicants will have a sunrise period of 9 months from the date of exit in order to apply for equivalent protection in the UK. This will require payment of the usual UK IPO official fee. Any applications made during this time will retain the original priority date of the corresponding EU application. No official detailed advice has been given in relation to contentious matters thus far. 

In anticipation of a potential “no-deal” Brexit, we will be reviewing all client portfolios and sending advanced notice of those rights which may require refiling. We will set-out further details of our working procedures and costs for this eventuality shortly.  

Extension of Article 50

There is a possibility that the Article 50 deadline will be extended for several months to allow the respective UK and EU governments to complete negotiations. This will serve the purpose of maintaining the status quo and, therefore, all existing registered and pending EUTMs and RCDs will continue to extend to the UK. In this scenario, our standing advice is unchanged. Existing EUTM/RCD holders need only refile in the UK if it is desirable to rule out any uncertainty in lieu of the final exit.

SH&P’s Commitment to You 

At whatever point we leave the European Union, our clients can be confident that SH&P will continue to provide a full range of filing, prosecution and maintenance services before the EU IPO at no additional cost.

If you require any further information about how Brexit affects your business or, for that matter, any other IP related issue, please get in touch with your usual SH&P contact or via mail@shandp.com.


April 2017 SH&P Brexit update 2019

The UK’s exit from the European Union will have a significant effect on UK business practices and legislation including intellectual property. The next two years will be clouded by uncertainty as negotiations between the UK and Brussels continue.  There is no precedent so we are entering into unknown territory.

During the negotiation period, SH&P will be providing ongoing guidance on how best to maintain and secure effective UK and EU IP rights relating to both existing and future projects.

In conjunction with the likes of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA), Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), International Trade Mark Association (INTA) and the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), we will lobby both the UK Government and European Parliament to ensure that a suitable mechanism is put in place which allows legal rights secured under existing laws to be maintained in the UK after it leaves the EU.

We cannot predict the final outcome of the UK’s negotiated withdrawal from the EU. However, we can reassure our clients that SH&P will remain on hand to advise on all aspects of EU IP strategy both during Brexit negotiations and beyond. With over 100 years involvement in the UK intellectual property field, SH&P is no stranger to change. Whatever the outcome of the exit negotiations, we will continue to offer the same high quality representation before both the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and European Patent Office (EPO) at competitive rates.

Existing IP Rights

Whilst change is inevitable in the longer term, for the time being it is business as usual for UK Plc.

The referendum decision has no impact on the UK’s relationship with the EPO.  The EPO is not an EU institution and is independently governed by the European Patent Convention.  The UK will remain a member of the EPC and SH&P will continue to represent applicants before the EPO irrespective of the EU exit negotiations.

European Union Trade Mark (EUTM) and Registered Community Design (RCD) right protection secured at the European Intellectual Property Office (EU IPO) will continue to have effect in the UK for the foreseeable future.  When the UK formally leaves the EU it is highly unlikely that EUTMs and RCDs secured up to that point will cease to have effect in the UK.  The likelihood is that the UKIPO and EUIPO will agree on a transitional system whereby existing EUTMs and RCDs can be “converted” into national UK rights. Therefore, for existing EU rights, until the terms of a transitional system are known, owners need not incur the cost of re-registration in the UK.

Nevertheless, we appreciate that even a small degree of risk can be unsettling for a business. Our attorneys are on hand to provide strategic advice on the means available to mitigate against any future prejudicial effect on your IP rights, related Agreements and Licensing arrangements, and to minimise your exposure to unnecessary costs.

New Trade Marks and Designs

It remains our position that trade mark and design owners should continue to use the EUTM and RCD system for the foreseeable future.

We fully expect any EUTMs or RCDs filed subsequent to the triggering of Article 50 to have either full or transitional legal effect at the point of the UK’s formal exit from the EU. There are a number of options and scenarios presently under consideration in this regard.

The implications of Brexit will be actively considered as part of any work we undertake on behalf of our clients in relation to UK and EU IP matters.

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