Brexit: The Potential Consequences and Impact on Intellectual Property and Business

June 21, 2016 2 min read

By Sabrina Gonzalez-Guidis, Alumnus of The Young Lawyer Programme 2016

Thursday 23rd of June is a historic day regarding the decision as to whether the UK will remain or leave the EU.

The impact and consequences for Intellectual Property

Most IP rights are based on EU law, the impact would be very significant according to Rowan Freeland of Simmons & Simmons. All community trademarks and registered designs, which are now EU trademarks and registered designs would cease to apply to the UK. Businesses would have to convert the UK part of those rights into national rights, so ''an immediate exit would involve a certain amount of administrative expense.''

UK based trademark attorneys would face a problem because in order to prosecute trademark applications in the EU Intellectual Property Office, they would have to be a citizen with an office from a member of state. Therefore, if we leave UK trademark agents will no longer qualify. That means that companies with UK based trademark departments would have to move agents with adverse consequences for their current employees.

The impact and consequences for business

Leaving the EU would require the UK to negotiate its FTAs and trade deals comprehensively. The counsel of Brexit claim that this may put Britain in a strong position for negotiating trade deals that are beneficial. Although this argument relies on whether we as a nation are seen as a trading partner that is desirable. US representative Michael Froman pointed towards the possibility of us not being so desirable in Brussels, October 2015. According to Froman, America is ''not in the market for a free trade deal with Britain alone.'' and that ''Britain has a greater voice being at the trade table being part of the EU.'' Thus by possibly negotiating deals with the US independently, British companies could consequently face tariffs on goods exported to the US such as China, who currently pays 80% tariffs on some products such as solar panels.

Britain may be viewed as too isolated from the EU post-Brexit by multinational companies, especially those in finance, despite the UK being the EU's insurance, banking and finance capital. Therefore, they may consequently decide to pull their anchors out of UK operations. For example HSBC, one of the most valuable companies on the London Stock Market would consider moving out of their UK operations, this is due to economic uncertainty according to Group Chairman, Douglas Flint.  Additionally, The City of London Corporation predicts that London's economic volume could grow by a third while employing 10% more people over the next decade if Britain remains.

A potential period of uncertainty: will we make it or break it?

Ultimately, financial institutions, investors and corporates will have to be prepared with a plan to respond efficiently to developments in order to minimise potential risks. If we leave, we would be stepping into  grey area, where the legal outlook will depend largely on our continuing relationship with the EU.

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