In this post IPcopy argues that the Brexit vote represents a golden opportunity for IP rights holders outside the EU to send patent, trade mark and design work to the UK as a weakened pound makes the high quality IP services on offer in the UK more value for money than ever before.
The impact of a vote to leave the EU was debated* at length before the referendum. The six months or so since the vote has seen the subject of Brexit remain high up on the news agenda but not a huge amount has actually happened. We’ve had a couple of court cases, a promise to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017 but not much detail regarding the actual plan for managing the UK’s departure from the EU.
What we have seen however are numerous articles from mainland continental Europe highlighting the risks of Brexit. We’ve covered some of the more speculative/ridiculous/ erroneous examples of these statements in our Brexit – IP Myths and Misconceptions article series (which can all be found here).
Recently we came across another example on the Leaders League website in which a German attorney suggested that following Brexit “companies need to rethink their filing strategy” and that “Many American firms used to file EU trademarks through their colleagues in the UK because of the shared language, but it may not be possible any more after Brexit, and I would even recommend foreign clients, move to European firms, who in addition are not as expensive as UK firms but provide the same standards of service…”
The last quote above suggests two areas of concern – namely the ability of UK based attorneys to represent clients in Europe post Brexit and the relative cost of the UK profession versus European counterparts. IPcopy suggests that the reality of the situation is that the provision of services from UK firms is now more attractive than ever.
Representing clients in Europe
First things first. When the UK does finally Brexit it will have no impact on the ability of UK based European Patent Attorneys (EPAs) to provide patent services before the EPO. The UK will remain a member of the EPC even after Brexit. UK EPAs will also be able to participate fully in the Unified Patent Court if that comes into being, including representing clients before the Court.
As far as EU trade mark and EU design work is concerned, while there may be an impact on UK attorneys as a result of Brexit, this would only be an issue if the UK profession collectively decided to make no contingency plans!
In fact what we’re already seeing is that many firms are opening offices elsewhere in Europe (e.g. Keltie has already opened an office in Ireland). By the time Brexit actually is implemented the UK profession should be well placed to continue representing clients in Europe without any impact to their level of service and with no loss of continuity of service for clients.
It should also be borne in mind that if the UK implements a transitional deal with the EU then the full impact of Brexit might be delayed for some years.
Additionally, securing the right, post Brexit, for UK based EU trade mark attorneys and EU design attorneys to continue to be able to represent clients at EUIPO is an objective of CIPA and CITMA.
In short, IP rights holders in the US, China, Japan and elsewhere should not be unduly concerned that Brexit will reduce a UK firm’s ability to represent them throughout Europe.
The suggestion that UK firms are more expensive than their continental European counterparts is one that we hear from time to time. Whether it accurately reflects the charges of the UK profession is something else however and something that’s outside the scope of this post.
What we would like to highlight though is that since last year the pound has weakened considerably against other currencies and so relative to this time last year, and relative to just before the EU referendum, there has been a significant change in the value of sterling.
The table below shows the pound against the US Dollar, the Euro, the Chinese Yuan Renminbi and the Japanese Yen on 6 Jan 2016, 23 June 2016 and 6 Jan 2017. The percentage fall against each of these currencies is also listed. The fall against the dollar is particularly noticeable (between 16-17%).
In effect, UK firms have become better value for money because, depending on the currency you look at, the pound has become anywhere between 8-17% weaker since 23 June 2016**.
In contrast it is noted that, since 23 June 2016, the Euro slipped 7% against the US Dollar, only 2% against the Chinese Yuan Renminbi and has strengthened slightly against the Yen***.
The UK tourist industry has been a beneficiary of cheaper sterling, as a weaker pound makes Britain a cheaper destination for overseas tourists. Similarly, it should be recognised that the UK intellectual property services sector will also now be a cheaper destination (compared to say Germany) for IP work that originates from outside the EU (and, for that matter, IP work that originates from mainland EU states!).
The UK IP profession and UK firms are working hard to minimise the impact of Brexit on our ability to continue providing high quality IP services and many firms have already taken steps to mitigate these risks further by opening other offices in the EU outside the UK.
The UK is “Open for Business” and it’s never been a better time to come here!
Mark Richardson 11 January 2017
* “debate” might not be the right word here seeing as pre-referendum commentary seemed only to involve painting large figures on the side of buses, whipping British passports out of suit pockets or invoking imagery involving leaping into the dark…
** Further weakening of the pound might also be expected if the Supreme Court decision goes the Government’s way and also when Article 50 is actually triggered. This would potentially make the UK even better value for money for rights holders outside the EU.