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British ex-pat attorney looks at impact of ‘Brexit’ on IP laws

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Patent attorney Bill Abbatt has followed the U.K. “Brexit” vote and resulting fallout with personal and professional interest.

“The U.S. celebrates Independence Day – separation from another country across the water,” he says with a smile. “The U.S. did okay. So too will the U.K.”

But the fallout from the referendum may herald global instability with ripples that could spread to these shores, says Abbatt, a British ex-pat and a shareholder with the intellectual property firm of Brooks Kushman in Southfield, where he has worked since 1986. Abbatt handles all aspects of domestic and foreign patent prosecution in a wide variety of technologies, including manufacturing, metallurgy, chemistry, medical devices, aeronautics, and several other engineering fields; and he is passionate about helping to create jobs.

“It’s not a great environment for starting a company or growing a business – especially if a European/U.K. market is planned,” he says, adding that the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. reported that 20 percent of British businesses polled were considering a move outside the country. “Many laws will need to be reconsidered or rewritten – including importing, exporting, trade, and immigration.”

On the other hand, U.S. tourists will benefit as dollars go further with the weak pound, according to economists. Folks are flocking to Harrods to buy luxury goods. Yet the weak pound could harm U.S. legal firms doing business with the U.K.

“Perhaps the demand by the U.K./European client for U.S. legal services will fall because of the perceived high cost of U.S.-based legal services that is inflicted by an adverse exchange rate,” Abbatt says.

As to intellectual property laws, Abbatt notes that little action by U.S. counsel is required at this point. The European Patent System is independent of the European Union and will be relatively unaffected by who’s in and who’s out in E.U. membership.

There is likely to be some disruption to the planned Unitary Patent (E.U. Patent) and Unified Patent Court (E.U. Patent Court).

“Across the pond, the U.K. is one of the more economically significant territories. It has one of the most developed legal infrastructures. The U.K.’s absence from the E.U. may chill some enthusiasm for the project,” he says.
If and when the U.K. leaves the E.U. – a departure that is probably a couple of years away – U.K. patent rights will be obtained as they are now, by a G.B. designation at the European Patent Office, or as a separate national filing directly in the U.K., Abbatt explains.

“But the proposed new E.U. Unitary Patent will not cover the U.K. and will need to be renegotiated,” he says.

Existing E.U. trademark and design registrations will probably be converted to U.K. national registrations as E.U. registrations will no longer cover the U.K. 

“Filing strategies should be planned accordingly,” he says.

Abbatt adds that “the departure of the U.K. from the E.U. is likely to have little effect on membership of the Madrid Protocol system – an international treaty that allows a trademark owner to seek registration in any of the countries that have joined the Madrid Protocol by filing a single application, called an “‘international application’” he says.
 

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