On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) signed the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (« Withdrawal Agreement »).
The Withdrawal Agreement entered into force on February 1, 2020. Since that date, the UK has withdrawn from the EU and has become a “third country”. The Withdrawal Agreement provides for a transition period ending on December 31, 2020. Until that date, EU law in its entirety applies to and in the UK.
The EU and the UK are currently negotiating an agreement on a new partnership, providing notably for a free trade area. In this connection, the EU Commission published on March 18, 2020 its proposal called “Draft text of the Agreement on the New Partnership with the United Kingdom” (« Draft Text »).
However, following some recent political declarations, it is not certain at all whether such an agreement will be concluded and will enter into force at the end of the transition period. In any event, such an agreement would create a relationship which in terms of market access conditions will be very different from the UK’s participation in the internal market and in the EU Customs Union.
In all cases, those negotiations do not concern EU trademarks and Community designs, which is quite normal since, on the one hand, the territorial scope of protection of those IP rights are limited to the EU territory and since, on the other, the UK is not anymore an EU Member State.
However, the Withdrawal Agreement of January 31, 2020 contains several articles which will be of interest for the holders of EU trademarks and Community designs, it being said that these articles will still be applicable even if the EU and the UK do not reach an agreement of the Draft Text before December 31, 2020.
In the next developments, we will give some explanations of the legal situation for EU trademark and Community designs holders after the end of the transition period (1.). We will also comment some articles of the Withdrawal Agreement dealing with EU trademarks and Community designs (2.). Finally, we will give some indications on the impact of the Brexit on EU trademark/Community design infringement actions and on customs enforcement of IP rights (3.).
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