By now, almost everyone has heard the result of the United Kingdom's referendum to leave the European Union, commonly dubbed Brexit. With 1,269,501 more votes, the "leave" side has won, meaning that the UK will indeed exit the EU.
The Brexit result has sent shockwaves throughout the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, and many are waiting to see what further changes this vote will spark. Of particular concern for those involved in Australian intellectual property law is how Brexit will affect patents in Europe and the UK.
Current patents are secure
To start, there is not much to worry about; patents are not at any risk as a result of the Brexit vote. The European Patent Organisation (EPO), which functions as a pan-European patent authority, is not intrinsically tied to the European Union. It is based on the European Patent Convention, which was established in 1973 – two decades before the founding of the European Union.
The Brexit vote result has "no consequence on the membership of the UK to the European Patent Organisation."
Additionally, countries that are members of the EPO do not have to be members of the EU, so there is no reason why the United Kingdom would leave the organisation – even after the "leave" campaign's victory in Brexit.
Any further anxiety about patents and Europe should be eased by the statement from EPO President Benoit Battistelli – he affirmed that the Brexit vote result has "no consequence on the membership of the UK to the European Patent Organisation, nor on the effect of the European Patents in the UK."
Brexit and the Unitary European Patent
While there is no issue for existing patents, Brexit deals several blows to the anticipated Unitary European Patent. Once established, this system will allow for the simplified registration and enforcement of patents within member countries by creating a European patent with unitary effect (EPUE).
Unfortunately, the Unitary European Patent is a product of the EU, which means the UK will not be able to sign on to this system. This makes the future of the unitary patent unclear, especially as the Unified Patent Court – the mechanism for enforcement – must be ratified by France, Germany and the UK in order to be established.
As such, some shuffling will need to be done before the Unitary European Patent can be fully implemented, further delaying the already long-awaited system.
Bloomberg Law (@BloombergLaw) June 25, 2016
While there are some setbacks after Brexit, patent holders can rest easy. For more information about how Brexit will impact patents in Australia, or other IP services in Sydney, contact Alder IP today.