With only a month now until the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union, our thoughts are turning to the impact on our industry, particular if the vote is in favour of leaving the EU.

Like many of the issues in the debate and affected by remaining in or leaving the EU, there are many uncertainties that make it difficult to predict accurately the full consequences of a decision either way. However, owing to the nature of the global IP system, including a number of conventions that are based on Europe and the EU, particularly for trademarks and registered designs and the proposed Unitary Patent system, the UK would no longer be covered through these pan-European systems that conveniently offer IP rights across Europe through a single application.

Inevitably, if the UK were to leave the EU, obtaining IP rights in Europe and the UK would become more complex (and so probably more expensive) as applications would have to be made through multiple different regimes (e.g. the UK system separately from the European system).

For the Unitary Patent Court, plans are already advanced for a seat of the court to be held in London and leaving the EU could well jeopardise this. There may also be the risk that IP rights holders, particularly abroad, may perceive the UK to be outside Europe and so there may be a loss of work by UK attorneys, even though UK attorneys would still retain their rights of representation before at least some of the IP offices, primarily the European Patent Office.


“A Brexit would bring uncertainty and upheaval to the UK’s IP framework, a framework which is currently stable and well-functioning, global-facing and widely respected. IP rights are valuable commercial tools, their exploitation key to many business strategies and international trading arrangements. IP also incentivises innovation and helps its products to flourish. CIPA urges the UK not to overlook, or indeed underestimate, the impact of the 23 June referendum on IP.”