Brexit and the implications for your Intellectual Property Rights

What will the Brexit mean for your intellectual property (IP) rights? Will Britain leave the European Union (EU) without a deal? Or will the Prime Minister manage to get the British Parliament to vote in favour of a Plan B-deal? The Brexit will have consequences for trademark rights, design rights, copyright and patent rights that involve the UK and the EU. Start prepping to protect your IP before Brexit!

The Brexit does not just impact organizations doing business in or with the UK from a commercial trade perspective (e.g. customs and import). You should also think about the ‘crown jewels’ of your organization (e.g. trademark rights, design rights, copyrights or patent rights) covering the European Union.

Brexit will impact every company having intellectual property, licenses and distribution agreements within the EU or UK scope.

Although the uncertainty about the Brexit remains, you should know that whatever happens, you should start preparations. For instance, what happens with the UK coverage of your EU trade mark and design registrations? Should you amend the territorial scope in your intellectual property contracts? A mere reference to the ‘EU’ may become difficult to interpret. This blog outlines the potential implications concerning your intellectual property rights following a Brexit.

Impact of Brexit on European Trade Marks and Designs

EU trade marks and designs are granted by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Currently, companies and individuals owning a registered EU trade mark or design have their trade mark or design right protected across all EU member states including the UK.

After the Brexit, existing EU trade mark and design registrations will no longer include protection in the UK. However, even in case of a ‘no deal-scenario’, the UK government ensured that the rights in all existing registered EU trade marks and designs will continue to be protected and enforceable in the UK by providing an equivalent trade mark or design registered nationally in the UK.

If you have pending applications for trademark or design rights in the EU at the Brexit date, you may refile your application with the UK Intellectual Property Office under the same terms for a UK equivalent right. For a period of 9 months from exit, the UK government will recognize filing dates and claims to earlier priority and UK seniority recorded on the corresponding EU application.

Impact of Brexit on Copyrights

Various international treaties (such as, the Berner Convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty) govern the protection of copyright. Under these rules, countries provide cross border copyright protection. These rules are luckily not dependent on the UK’s membership of the EU. As a consequence, copyright protection in the UK for EU protected works will largely remain unchanged.

What about database rights and other EU specific IP legislation?

The EU copyright system is based on EU legislation so it only extends to EU member states. Although the protection rights under EU legislation will be preserved in UK law, cross-border IP protection mechanisms will be different. For example, in the event of a no deal-Brexit, there will be no obligation for EU member states to provide database rights to UK businesses. As a result, owners of UK database rights may find their rights unenforceable in the EU. So companies may need to consider other forms of protection for their databases.

Impact of Brexit on Patents and supplementary protection certificates

Only a few areas of UK patent law are derived from EU legislation. Probably the most important issue here is patented pharmaceutical products and chemical compounds. EU law provides for an additional period of protection after a patent has lapsed, the so-called ‘supplementary protection certificate’.

In addition, EU law provides for compulsory licenses to be granted for UK manufacture of a patented medicine for export to a country with a public health need. Also, EU law demonstrates that certain studies, trials and tests using a patented pharmaceutical product will not be regarded as an infringement of the patent.

Luckily, regardless of the Brexit, any relevant EU legislation (including its implementation in UK law) will remain. This means that the supplementary protection certificates, compulsory licenses and exempted studies and trials will be kept under UK law.

What about the Unitary Patent?

Under the European patent regime, a European patent application essentially forms a bundle of national applications. Each application needs to be validated per EU member state. The Unitary Patent will be one inseparable right covering 26 EU countries. The UK is one of those 26 countries. They ratified the Unitary Patent system only in April 2018 which indicates their desire to be part of this system in spite of Brexit.

However, the Unitary Patent protection cannot be separated from the general principle of the EU’s Internal Market. As a consequence, and especially in the event of a ‘no deal-Brexit’, it is questionable whether the Unitary Patent protection will remain applicable to the UK once it has left the EU. If not, it means that businesses seeking patent protection in the UK will still need to commit to the national UK patent system.

Exhaustion of IP rights after Brexit

Another topic for your business to consider, is the so-called exhaustion of intellectual property rights. ‘Exhaustion’ limits intellectual property rights. Once an IP protected product has been legitimately put on the market anywhere in the EU, the IP rights (e.g. prevent the resell or other commercial use) over such product can no longer be exercised because these rights are exhausted.

In a ‘no deal-scenario’, products rightfully placed on the UK market after Brexit, will not be considered exhausted in the EU. As a result, if your company exports products from the UK to the EU you may still require the IP owner’s consent.

To discuss potential effects of the Brexit on your IP rights, please do not hesitate to contact Lukas Witsenburg from Penrose. Email: l.witsenburg@penrose.law or telephone: +31 (0)20-240 0710.

New Zealand Parliament passes zero carbon bill

Lawmakers in New Zealand approved a bill on Thursday that aims to reduce the country’s non-biogenetic greenhouse emissions to zero by 2050. The Zero Carbon Bill provides a framework for limiting average global temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as set forth in the Paris Agreement.

The bill establishes a Climate Change Commission, which will advise the government and monitor and review the government’s progress towards meeting the goal. The 2050 targets set forth are: gross emissions of biogenic methane to be reduced to at least between 24 percent and 47 percent below 2017 levels and net emissions of all other greenhouse gases to be reduced to zero. The separate targets for biogenic methane, the greenhouse gases released by livestock such as cattle and sheep, will make it easier for New Zealand to hit their zero emissions goal. Greenhouse gases from agriculture make up 48 percent of the countries total emissions.

The Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw praised the bill:

Climate change is the defining long-term issue of our generation that successive Governments have failed to address. Today we take a significant step forward in our plan to reduce New Zealand’s emissions. … We’ve led the world before in nuclear disarmament and in votes, now we are leading again…This Bill belongs to New Zealand, and together we have ensured law that ensures we shift towards a low emissions country that keeps us all safe.

New Zealand joins more than sixty other countries that have committed to zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, the countries with the largest greenhouse emissions—China, India, and the US—are not on that list. On Monday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on twitter:

Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens. Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model.

A number of US states have passed their own zero emissions goals including California, Washington and New Mexico.

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2019 UN climate change conference begins in Madrid

The 2019 UN climate change conference began on Monday in Madrid, with leaders looking for solutions to reduce global carbon levels. Leaders originally planned for the conference to be held in Chile, but due to political instability, the conference was moved to Madrid, where it will take place over the next two weeks.

The conference started with statements from prominent leaders, notably António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General. Guterres urged leaders to select the “path of hope.” He characterized this choice as:

A path of resolve, of sustainable solutions. A path where more fossil fuels remain where they should be–in the ground–and where we are on the way to carbon neutrality by 2050. That is the only way to limit global temperature rise to the necessary 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.

The conference begins as new evidence shows record levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The World Meteorological Organization released a bulletin concluding that carbon levels were at 407.8 parts per million in 2018. Guterres mentioned the report in his remarks, noting that 400 parts per million were once considered “unthinkable.”

Global cooperation on reduced carbon emissions remains an uncertainty. US President Donald Trump ordered the US to withdraw from the Global Paris Climate deal. There is some speculation that the EU and China will be making a climate deal next September.

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KPMG adds to Asia legal presence

The KPMG Global Legal Services network is pleased to announce that it has expanded its legal capabilities in Asia Pacific by establishing a new law firm in Hong Kong, known as SF Lawyers.

SF Lawyers is the newest member of the KPMG’s Global Legal Services network. It will initially commence operations with four senior hires and two senior associates joining either now or over the next few months, and with plans for around 20 lawyers in the first year. The four senior hires are Shirley Fu, Rodney Chen, Leo Tian and David Murray, and they will be supported by Alex Ma and Sherman Wong as senior associates. Brief details of the senior hire profiles are included below. An additional launch of legal services in Shanghai is expected in 2019.

Honson To, Chairman of KPMG Asia Pacific and China, says: “We warmly welcome SF Lawyers as the newest member of the KPMG Global Legal Services network, which has grown by 30 percent in 2018 alone, and has significant growth ambitions just beginning to be realised across the Asia Pacific region.”

“With increased global connectivity and the digitalisation of many business functions, SF Lawyers will be uniquely positioned to deliver on the needs of both domestic clients (including going outbound) and multinational clients entering or transacting in the Chinese market. Working in conjunction with KPMG, SF Lawyers will provide clients with legal services in key areas such as M&A and deals, and infrastructure projects. It will also offer technology enabled legal services, while leveraging significant investments in robotics, artificial intelligence and other technologies developed globally and in China through the KPMG Digital Ignition Centre.”

“The firm will also help provide clients with global legal solutions, leveraging our legal services practices across 76 jurisdictions, together with KPMG’s presence in 154 countries around the world”, To adds.

SF Lawyers will be operating in association with KPMG Law in Australia, which is led by Stuart Fuller, the former Global Managing Partner of King & Wood Mallesons.  Fuller has recently moved to KPMG where he occupies the role of Asia Pacific Regional Leader for Legal Services.

Fuller says: “We are excited about the association between KPMG Law in Australia and SF Lawyers in Hong Kong, which is reflective of the increasingly important trade and business flows between the two jurisdictions. We are not trying to be a traditional law firm. Our approach is different, with a focus on offering our clients integrated global legal advice and solutions, where we are able to work seamlessly with existing KPMG clients who are looking for local and multijurisdictional counsel. As someone who has lived and worked in Hong Kong for 6 years, I am proud to see SF Lawyers as the newest entry to the network in Asia.”

White & Case Advises Banks on US$1 Billion Notes Issuance

Global law firm White & Case LLP has advised First Abu Dhabi Bank P.J.S.C., Goldman Sachs International, HSBC Bank plc, Samba Capital & Investment Management Company and Standard Chartered Bank, as managers, on Samba Funding Limited’s issuance of US$1 billion Notes due 2024 under its newly established US$5 billion Euro Medium Term Note Programme.

“This issuance represents Samba Bank’s successful entrance into global debt capital markets and we were well-placed to advise the investment banks based both regionally and internationally on the establishment and issue under the new programme,” said White & Case partner Debashis Dey, who led the Firm’s deal team.

Samba Funding Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of, and the Notes are guaranteed by, Saudi Arabia-based international financial services provider Samba Financial Group.

The White & Case team which advised on the offering was led by partner Debashis Dey (Dubai & London) with support from counsel Xuan Jin (Dubai) and associates Michael Byrd (London) and Sarah Altukhaifi (Riyadh).

US Takes First Step To Leave Paris Agreement

The United States will become the first country to leave the Paris Agreement in one year.

The Trump administration announced its decision to withdraw from the global pact two years ago but just filed the official paperwork earlier in the week.

The Paris Agreement was officially agreed to by every nation on the planet in 2015 and outlines a basic framework on how to address climate change on a global scale.

The move to withdraw is part of an ongoing effort by President Trump to appease corporate interests and financial concerns in the name of “red tape reduction”.

All of this comes at a time when scientists are urging rapid action to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. On Tuesday, 11,000 scientists officially declared a global climate emergency.

“Scientists have a moral obligation to warn humanity of any great threat,” said Dr Newsome from the School of Life and Environment Sciences. “From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency.”

While concerns about global warming were first published in 1912, it wasn’t until the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its first report in 1990 that the world’s scientists united in their warnings of danger.

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that we have roughly eleven years left to limit fossil fuel use before “untold human suffering” is unavoidable, including extreme heat waves, drought, floods, plaques, poverty, starvation, famine, and war.

While only 61% of Americans say they are concerned about climate change, 70% of Americans believe environmental protections are more important than economic growth.

Yet, the majority of Republicans in Washington are on record as skeptics of science, so the administration’s decision falls directly into the party’s orthodoxy despite the ominous warnings.

How Will Plans to End Free Movement Affect EU Workforce?

The Home Office has recently issued a factsheet indicating that freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on 31 October 2019 and that arrangements for people coming to the UK for longer periods for work or study will change. What does this mean in practice and how should employers prepare?

A draft Immigration Bill drafted published by Theresa May’s government had already envisaged an end to free movement following a no-deal exit. However, to avoid a “cliff-edge” until a new immigration system could be put in place, the Home Office planned to introduce transitional arrangements for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members arriving in the UK between exit date and 31 December 2020. Those coming to the UK for short visits for any reason would be able to enter as they can now and stay for up to three months for each entry. Those wishing to stay in the UK for longer would need to apply to the Home Office for EU temporary leave to remain within three months of arrival (giving 36 months’ permission to live, work and study) after which they would need to apply under the UK’s future immigration system (expected to be introduced from January 2021).

The Home Office announcement and further reports now indicate the shelving of these transitional arrangements to be replaced by a new immigration system immediately applicable to new arrivals following a no-deal exit. There is very unlikely to be the time and resource to put in place such a system or the legislation which will underpin it. The Home Office is already stretched and the UK’s current Points Based System took nearly four years to design and implement. We may, therefore, still end up with some form of transitional registration system but the Government’s current direction of travel suggests this is likely to be more onerous than the EU temporary leave envisaged under Theresa May. Employers who had good reason to believe that they would be able to continue to recruit from the EU with relative ease until the end of 2020 (even in a no-deal scenario), should prepare for the possibility of new hires arriving the EU from 31 October 2019 needing some form of immigration permission prior to starting work. Exactly what this will entail, including the qualifying criteria, cost and application process, remains to be seen and we will providing updates as matters develop.

In any event, the Government has made clear that an immediate end to free movement following a no-deal exit will not affect the ability of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their families already resident in the UK by 31 October 2019 to continue living and working here, as long as they apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme before 31 December 2020. Nonetheless, as a precaution, employers should support their affected employees to obtain (or apply for) pre-settled or settled status under the Scheme before 31 October 2019 (or at least prior to their next trip outside the UK) to reduce difficulties on re-entry by having to prove their prior UK residence by some other means. Current average processing times under the Scheme are reasonably quick – between one and four days. Those travelling outside the UK after 31 October and before they have been granted status would be well-advised to take with them some proof that they are already resident in the UK (ideally in line with the documentary evidence recommended by the Home Office when applying under the Scheme such as recent UK payslips, an employer letter or utility bill).

Record numbers of UK lawyers register in Ireland

UK law firms have ramped up preparation for Brexit by registering a record number of solicitors in Ireland but confusion remains about how many of them will be able to practise in Ireland and the wider EU after Britain leaves.

The Law Society of Ireland said its solicitors roll had received 1,560 applications in the year to date — more than 31 times the average annual rate in the years before the 2016 EU referendum.

Some 3,706 lawyers from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been registered since the beginning of 2016 as City firms scrabble to insulate themselves from Brexit’s effects.

Those include UK lawyers potentially losing rights of audience in European courts and seeing their ability to advise on European legal matters curtailed.

In August the Law Society of England and Wales warned that the legal sector in the UK could face a £3.5bn hit as a result of a no-deal Brexit.

“Typically, major international commercial law firms are the source of these transfers, in some cases hundreds from one firm,” said Ken Murphy, director-general of the Law Society of Ireland. “It is an extraordinary development.”

Elite UK firms Allen & Overy and Linklaters have among the largest numbers of lawyers signed up to the Irish roll, according to the Irish Law Society, with 287 and 250 respectively. Latham & Watkins has registered 155.

However, only 981 UK lawyers hold a “practising certificate” which allows them to work in Ireland, according to the Law Society. Firms said they were waiting for the outcome of Brexit to determine whether to pay the annual cost of £2,650 per person required to take the final test.

One top-tier UK law firm said only a “handful” of the hundreds of lawyers registered in Ireland had practising certificates, because of the cost and “the lack of clarity as to whether this will actually function as a workaround in a no-deal Brexit scenario.”

In March the Law Commission in Ireland announced new hurdles for lawyers hoping to rely on Irish practising certificates after Brexit, including requiring firms to have a base in Ireland and indemnity insurance issued within the country.

Catherine Hudson, head of risk at Fieldfisher, said: “This was a surprise. A lot of people applied to be on the register in Ireland because they thought it would be a good plan B. But then the Irish Law Society published a note putting constraints on their practising certificates, suggesting they were concerned not to be used as a flag of convenience for people with no real professional connection to the republic.”

A number of firms including DLA Piper, Covington & Burling and Simmons & Simmons have opened offices in Dublin, and avoided those issues. Others, such as Fieldfisher, have merged with Irish firms to gain a permanent foothold.

DLA Piper launched a Dublin office in May and has so far recruited 11 partners, many poached from top-tier Irish firms.

Lawyers said the shift would create a more active transfer market and potential pay inflation in the traditionally conservative Irish legal market.

However Barry Devereux, managing partner of Irish firm McCann FitzGerald, said: “The large Irish law firms have always competed fiercely with each other, both for talent and for clients, so I don’t expect the entrance of US or UK law firms to have an enormous impact.”