Brexit has required the UK to re-think a huge number of legal schemes that had been in place for many years. One such law has been the principle of exhaustion of rights.

This principle essentially sets a limit on the ability of IP rights holders to control the distribution of goods protected by those rights.

For as long as the UK was part of the EU and the single market, first sale within the European Economic Area was considered to be the point at which the rights expire.

This approach allowed the trade of goods in the secondary market to flourish between EEA countries, while retaining the rights for the rights holder to prevent imports into the EEA of goods that have been sold outside this economic zone.

From 1st January 2021 however, the UK has needed to re-write how the principle of exhaustion will function. Lawmakers are currently exploring a couple of options.

Whichever the UK ultimately decides on, as with all intellectual property, a balance will need to be struck between the protection offered to creatives and publishers, while allowing fair competition, wide consumer choice and fair market pricing.