European brand owners’ association, Marques, is calling for UK trade mark and design owners to benefit ‘as much as possible’ from the EU’s harmonised intellectual property system amid ‘serious concern’ at a lack of progress on Brexit negotiations.

A position paper says the harmonisation of European Union Trade Marks (EUTM), Registered Community Designs (RCD) and Protections of Geographical Indication (GI) had been of ‘enormous benefit’ to its members and consumers.

‘To avoid losing this benefit, Marques would prefer to see as much of this harmonisation as possible survive Brexit, whether or not the UK stays in the Common Market or joins the EEA,’ the paper states. It adds that Marques is ‘seriously concerned’ that there have been no negotiations at all on the ‘very technical’ area of law and that the government and EU negotiators should ‘urgently start and diligently progress talks’. 

‘Brexit has the potential to be a material threat to the interests of the significant number of businesses that own and/or rely on valuable trade mark, design and geographical indicator rights protected in the EU,’ it says. 

Ideally, Marques says, the UK would be part of ‘some sort of harmonised (or nearly harmonised) trade mark, design PDO/PGI system covering at least the EU27 countries.’

However, to ease the transition period it has told the government and Brexit negotiators to focus on three key objectives. These are: maximising retention of existing rights, easing the administrative burden for lawyers and minimising the cost to businesses.

On existing rights, the paper states that, come Brexit, owners should have a national UK equivalent right created so as to give ‘exact equivalent rights post Brexit as existed pre-Brexit’.

The position paper also calls for no loss of rights where seniority in a UK trade mark had been claimed. Seniority allows EUTM applicants to claim prior rights in a mark through existing national registrations. According to Marques, even if the former UK trade mark had lapsed due to a successful seniority claim it should be ‘revived as if it had never lapsed’.

On easing the burden for lawyers, the paper calls for a brand owners’ advisers who were on the record at the time of Brexit to remain on record. This would give UK lawyers the option of continuing to represent EU clients who want to transfer their EUTMs onto the UK register and clients seeking protection in the remaining EU member states. The paper calls for this agreement to be reciprocal.  

Marques has around 750 member companies or firms, some of which have large trade mark portfolios.