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Patents and Brexit: What You Need To Know

Actualizado: 15 dic 2019

Photo by Sabrina Mazzeo

Brexit date is approaching and everything points to a no-agreement scenario. This event will affect many aspects of the economic life of the UK and EU, including intellectual property. While much has been discussed about trademarks, one of the success stories of European integration, there's been much less coverage about patents. What changes will there be in the patent system after Brexit? Not many with one small but crucial exception: supplementary protection certificates (SPCs).

Patents in the United Kingdom are granted - directly or through PCT system - by two institutions: the national United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) and the European Patent Office (EPO). Both bodies are outside the European Union legal framework, so they will not be affected.

The United Kingdom will continue to be a part of many of the conventions and systems relevant to the patent field, namely, the European Patent Convention under which the EPO operates (and including many non-EU countries such Norway or Turkey) , the PCT system, the Paris Convention, and the Unitary Patent Court - that is suffering of many many other setbacks, but Brexit is not one of them.

However, in this troubled transition there are some blind spots, as it is the case with SPCs. These legal instruments are extensions of up to 5 years to the protection period awarded to patents of pharmaceutical or plant products, devised to make up for the fact that their commercialization is often delayed by the obtaining of authorizations. SPCs are creations of EU law and their replacement by another national instrument in the United Kingdom has not yet been planned.

As of today, we know that the SPCs that are applied for or granted in the United Kingdom until the day before Brexit will remain in force - but if the application depends on an authorization from the European Medicines Agency, it may be necessary to provide a national UK equivalent. What will happen after this date is still unknown, although it is foreseeable that the United Kingdom will devise a similar instrument.

If you want to know more about IP and Brexit, the UKIPO keeps a comprehensive page with updated information, here .


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