United Kingdom Votes to Leave the European Union

June 2016

Following a referendum it was announced today, 24 June 2016, that the public has voted for the UK to leave the European Union.   The UK government must now decide at what stage to trigger a formal notice to withdraw.   Thereafter, the government will have at least two years to negotiate the terms of that withdrawal with the other members.  In the meantime, the UK will continue to be part of the EU. 

If the withdrawal goes ahead, and depending on what terms may be agreed, there might well be significant changes to some aspects of IP protection and enforcement in the UK.   It seems likely that any such changes will be some way down the UK government’s list of priorities, and are not imminent.   It is important, however, to emphasise the following:


  • The UK’s membership of the European Patent System is independent of its membership of the European Union, and so is unaffected.  
  • UK national patents are similarly unaffected.
  • The current agreements on the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court are based on the UK being a member of the system.  Although the process of ratification of the treaty has been ongoing in some countries, it is unclear at this stage whether the Unitary Patent process will continue at all if the UK’s withdrawal takes effect.

Trade Marks

  • UK national rights will remain in place.
  • Depending on the terms of a withdrawal from the EU, a process for dividing European Union Trade Mark Registrations (EUTMRs) into separate EU registrations and national UK registrations is likely to be put in place.

Registered Designs

  • UK national rights will remain in place.
  • Again, depending on what terms are negotiated, a withdrawal from the EU is likely to be accompanied by provisions for dividing EU Registered Designs, as noted above for EU Trade Mark Registrations. 

Unregistered Design Rights

  • UK national rights will remain in place.
  • Consideration should be given now by those currently relying on Community Unregistered Design Rights to obtaining registered protection.   Please contact us if this applies to you or your clients.


  • Such rights should, largely, be unaffected.

If the withdrawal goes ahead and the UK leaves the EU, Beck Greener will continue to represent its clients before the European Patent Office and the European Intellectual Property Office after such an exit takes effect. 

Inevitably, there will be a period of uncertainty before the position begins to clarify.  We will continue to monitor the situation and keep our clients updated and advised of any action that needs taking.   At present however, and for the foreseeable future, it is business as usual.