Intellectual Property and the impending BREXIT

24 November 2020 – Silvie Wertwijn and Micheline Don

The end of the Brexit transition period is near! Although the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU are still in full swing, several changes in the field of intellectual property have already become clear. We will briefly go through them with you.

EU Trademarks and Designs

As of 1 January 2021, EU trademark and design registrations are no longer valid in the UK. Will you lose protection for your trademark or design in the UK as of that date? No!

If you have an EU trademark or design, its UK part will be automatically converted into a national registration for the UK as of 1 January next. This national registration has the same date as the EU trademark/design and you do not have to pay any additional registration fees.

If your application for an EU trademark/design has not yet been completed on 1 January 2021 (e.g. because the application has just been filed, or opposition proceedings are still pending), the UK part of the EU trademark/design will not be automatically converted. In that event, you will have up to 30 September 2021 to apply for an individual national UK registration which again will have the same date as the EU registration. In the occurrence, you do have to pay additional registration fees in the UK and the application will also be subject to British examination and publication conditions.

International Trademarks and Designs

The protection of international trademarks and designs effective in the EU will be preserved in the UK. The same regime applies to this as to the EU trademarks/designs, as explained above.

Unregistered Designs

Unregistered community designs (EU) which exist before 1 January 2021, will continue to be protected in the UK for the remainder of their three year term.

As of 1 January 2021, a so-called supplementary unregistered design (SUD) will become available in the UK. The SUD provides similar protection as the unregistered community design, but only for the UK.

The SUD is created through first use of your design in the UK. Please note that you will not get an SUD through first use of the design in the EU. What is more, this may even impede protection in the UK as unregistered design. Therefore, pay due attention to what markets are important to your company and in what countries your products are made available to the public for the first time!


Seeing that the European Patent Office is not an EU agency, the Brexit will not affect the current European patent system. Existing European patents which are effective in the UK simply remain effective.


Most copyrighted works will also keep their protection in the UK after 1 January 2021. This is due to UK’s participation in several international treaties in this field. Only current international copyright rules which are unique to EU Member States will cease at the end of the transition period. This then concerns for instance cross-border portability of online content services, approval of copyrights for satellite broadcasts, and mutual protection of database rights.

Parallel Trade between the UK and the EEA

After 1 January 2021, intellectual property rights in products marketed in the UK by or with the consent of the trademark/design owner will no longer be exhausted in the EU (or to be more precise: the European Economic Area, “EEA”). This means that companies may need consent of the owner to export such products from the UK to the EEA. So, be very alert when importing products from the UK after 1 January 2021!

This is, however, not true the other way around. Products which are marketed in the EEA by or with the consent of the owner after the transition period, will be considered exhausted in the UK. And so, it is allowed to import these products in the UK from the EEA.

Any Questions?

Do not hesitate to contact us!

Silvie Wertwijn


Micheline Don