Brexit crisis: UK design firms will likely pay more to protect their designs and miss out on new EU-wide patents if the country leaves the European Union, according to a leading intellectual property law firm.
European Union design and trademark rights "would almost certainly cease to be effective in the UK" if the country left the EU, according to London intellectual property law firm Briffa.
This would mean that firms would have to file applications in both the UK and EU, incurring extra cost and administrative work.
It would also rule UK firms out of the new unitary patent, whereby a single patent application will cover most European countries.
Overseas firms would also have to take out separate UK and EU protection to cover both territories.
"UK businesses – as well as non-UK businesses – will probably end up having to spend more money in order to protect their trademarks, patents (once the unitary patent is available) and designs," said Mark Corran, a solicitor at Briffa.
"In the future they are likely to need to file applications for each in both the UK and the EU rather than just in the EU."
For now, Corran said that EU intellectual property rights remain effective in the UK, but he advised companies that were looking to file new applications to apply for both UK and EU protection.
"In relation to new trademarks and design, we’ve been suggesting that clients who wish to be able to 'set it and forget it' should simply file applications in the UK alongside EU applications," he said.
Moving forward, he expected transitional measures to be put in place to ensure that those who have existing EU protection will be able to obtain protection in the UK, if it leaves the single market.
However he added the way this might work is "all speculation" at the moment, he said.
"As no transitional measures have been announced and, as EU intellectual property rights are still enforceable in the UK, we’re not advising rights’ holders to take any action until these measures have been set out."
The UK might in future change its national intellectual property laws to remove elements introduced by EU law, Corran said. However copyright law would not be directly affected by Brexit, since it is protected by UK law.
European trademarks and design protection are administered by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) based in Alicante, Spain, while patents are handled by the European Patent Office (EPO), which has offices in five European cities.
The new EU unitary patent, officially known as the European patent with unitary effect (EUPE), is at the final stages of negotiation. When introduced, it will give patent protection in all EU countries except Spain and Croatia.
UK trademarks, design rights and patents are handled by the Intellectual Property Office.
Top image is courtesy of RM Sulzbach – one of many illustrators to post their reactions on social media following the UK's decision to leave the European Union.