So, it looks like the UK has voted to leave the EU.

Like other areas, the way that intellectual property (IP) system will be affected has been the subject of much debate and dramatic forecasts from both sides.  However, much more will stay the same than will change, and there is no need for panic.

As far as IP goes, probably the biggest question is what will happen to the European Unitary Patent and the Unitary Patent Court.  These packages were recently agreed at European level but are still waiting for complete ratification before coming into force.  In my view it is unlikely that the whole project itself will fall apart, but it does seem that the UK will ultimately not be able to be one of the venues for the Unitary Patent Court.

This may have an effect on the dynamics of patent enforcement strategy.  However, in terms of actually obtaining European Patents nothing much will change.  The UK is a member of the European Patent Convention and this is independent of EU membership.  So, UK patent attorneys will still be able to prosecute and obtain European Patents, including those which will have a unitary effect in the future.

Trade Marks and Designs of course already have well established EU registration mechanisms.   There will be mechanisms for ensuring continuity of protection in the UK for existing EU trade marks and registered designs, although the details of that will need to be worked out.  Applicants (including those in the UK) will of course still be able to obtain EU registrations, though in the future that will exclude the UK so separate registrations here will be needed.

We will write in more detail on the impacts of the decision on IP, and we note that even if the UK gives notice to the EU straight away there would still be a period of two years before the actual exit from the union.

But of course despite its commercial importance, IP will be relatively low on the political agenda.  After a divisive and bitter campaign we need to strive for unity, understanding and reconciliation. Let’s make sure that refugees from Syria are welcomed and let’s make sure that the peace process in Northern Ireland does not take a step back.  Issues such as these put commercial matters such as IP in perspective.