In the field of patent law, Brexit does not affect “classic” European patents because they are granted based on an international treaty, the European Patent Convention by the European Patent Office in a centralised procedure. The United Kingdom (UK) remains a party of the European Patent Organisation after the withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

The Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) for medicinal and plant protection products (prolonging the basic patent by five years as a compensation for the lack of market presence during the time-consuming marketing authorisation period) is regulated by two EU regulations (with EEA relevance). The decisions over SPCs are made by national IP offices with a territorial effect.

After 1 January 2021, UK businesses will still access the SPC system in EU Member States. UK implements the rules of the European regulations on SPCs into its own jurisdiction. This ensures that SPCs regarding the UK may be granted after Brexit, as well.

Authorisations from the European Medicines Agency will be converted into equivalent UK authorisations on 1 January 2021. Guidance on the conversion process is available from MHRA. If you rely on an authorisation from the European Medicines Agency as the basis for the SPC, you may be asked to provide information on the converted UK authorisation after 1 January 2021, so that this can be recorded on the register. This will not affect the validity of your SPC.

If you have an SPC that has already taken effect, it will remain in effect after 31 December 2020. SPCs granted but not yet in force will come into force at the end of the associated patent term as normal. If you have a pending application for an SPC, it will continue to progress. You will not need to refile.

Plant variety rights

After 1 January 2021, in case of a new application for plant variety rights valid for the territory of the UK, the UK national procedure needs to be followed.

UK ensures the continued protection of Community plant variety rights in its territory, as well. The holder of a Community plant variety right granted pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 2100/94 before the end of the transition period will, without any re-examination, become the holder of a comparable registered and enforceable plant variety right in the United Kingdom under the law of the United Kingdom for the same plant variety, with the following characteristics:

-       the term of protection of such plant variety right under the law of the United Kingdom will be at least equal to the remaining period of protection under Union law of the corresponding Community plant variety right;

-       the date of filing or date of priority of such plant variety right under the law of the United Kingdom will be that of the corresponding Community plant variety right.

Trade marks

Apart from the national trade mark protection, there are EU trade marks with a unitary character (it has equal effect throughout the EU), formerly Community trade marks. These trade marks are granted and registered by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

After 1 January 2021, EUTMs will no longer protect trade marks in the UK. Under the Withdrawal Agreement Act, on the 1 January 2021, the UK IP office will create a comparable UK trade mark for all right holders with an existing EU trade mark. The retention of existing priority and seniority dates in comparable UK trade marks will be automatic. As the holder of an EU right, you will not have to inform IPO of any earlier effective dates.

If you have a pending EUTM application, you’ll be able to apply to register the same trade mark as a UK right within nine months after the end of the transition period, this being up to and including 30 September 2021. You’ll keep the earlier filing date of the pending EUTM.


At the end of the transition period (1 January 2021), registered Community designs (RCDs) and unregistered Community designs (UCDs), will no longer be valid in the UK. A new design application may be filed at the UK IP office or there is also a possibility to use the international Hague system.

The existing Community rights will be immediately and automatically replaced by UK rights. All registered and published RCDs will have comparable UK designs, which will be recorded on the UK register. These will be treated as if they had been applied for and registered under UK law. The legislative changes introduced in the UK will ensure that the holder of an RCD is provided with an equivalent UK right. They will retain the registration and application dates recorded against the corresponding RCDs and will inherit any priority dates. Re-registered designs will be created at no cost to the RCD holder, ensuring that minimal administrative burden will be placed upon the right holder.

Geographical indications

According to the Withdrawal Agreement, all existing products registered under EU GI schemes will remain protected in the UK under the UK GI schemes after 1 January 2021.

The UK establishes its own GI schemes, which applies from 1 January 2021. The UK scheme will adhere to obligations imposed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and ultimately be managed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), including the processing of new applications and maintaining the register of protected product names. The new UK scheme is set to use the following designations:

-       Protected Designation of Origin (PDO);

-       Protected Geographical Indication (PGI);

-       Traditionally Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).

Northern Ireland is slightly different from the rest of the UK and has cross border GIs which relate to goods that can be produced anywhere on the island of Ireland. In this respect, the EU scheme continues to apply, which means that these GIs will continue to be fully protected in the UK and the EU, as well.

From 1 January 2021, GB producers seeking to apply for protection of a new product name in Great Britain must apply to the UK scheme. Once secured, producers can then apply to the EU scheme to obtain protection within the whole of the island of Ireland and the EU.

Producers in Northern Ireland should be aware that Northern Ireland will not have its own national GI scheme as they will be protected in the EU and Northern Ireland under the EU GI schemes. They will also be able to apply for protection under the UK schemes, but they need not have already secured protection under the EU schemes to do so.

The new logos for the UK GI scheme from 1 January 2021 are the following:


Producers and retailers of existing GI products (registered until 31 December 2020) will have until 1 January 2024 to make changes to incorporate the new UK GI logos on all packaging and marketing materials. It will be mandatory for producers and retailers of food and agricultural GI products in Northern Ireland to continue use of the EU logos when the product is being sold in Europe and Northern Ireland and is registered under the EU GI schemes. It is however optional as to whether the new UK GI logos are used if the product is registered under the UK GI schemes.

After the transition period, GI products protected in the EU can continue to use the EU logo in the UK and the logos will remain wholly optional for producers of wine and spirit GIs.

UK geographical indications protected by the EU scheme remain protected after 1 January 2021 in the EU.

The GIs of products remain in force after 1 January 2021, which are protected by:

-       EU free trade agreements, regarding which UK signed a continuity agreement (e.g. Andean Community, Chile, Switzerland),

-       EU sectoral agreements concluded by any third country, regarding which UK signed a continuity agreement.


The regulatory framework is mainly set out by international conventions (e.g. Berne Convention, WIPO Copyright Treaty), which are bonding to the UK and Hungary, both being parties to these agreements. According to these agreements, the minimum standards for protection of Hungarian works in the UK and vice versa are already set and remain in force.

According to the EU Satellite and Cable Directive, country-of-origin principle for licensing of copyright material in cross-border satellite broadcasts means that when a satellite broadcaster transmits a copyright work, e.g. a film, from one state to another, they are only required to get the copyright holder’s permission for the state in which the broadcast originates. This avoids satellite broadcasters having to secure individual licences for every state in which their broadcasts are received. UK broadcasters may no longer benefit from the country-of-origin principle for broadcasts into the EEA and may need to get additional rights holder permissions covering the EEA states to which they broadcast. This will depend on how the domestic legislation of each EEA member state treats broadcasts originating in non-EEA countries - for example, whether they apply the country-of-origin principle to non-EEA broadcasts, as UK law does.

Under the EU Database Directive eligible databases receive protection in all European Economic Area (EEA) member states. Only databases made by EEA nationals, residents or businesses are eligible.UK citizens, residents, and businesses are not eligible to receive or hold database rights in the EEA for databases created on or after 1 January 2021. Database rights that existed in the UK or EEA before 1 January 2021 (whether held by UK or EEA persons or businesses) will continue to exist in the UK and EEA for the rest of their duration. These rights are guaranteed under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) in the European Economic Area (EEA) are governed by the Collective Rights Management (CRM) Directive. This includes obligations to represent on request right holders from any EEA member state unless there are objectively justified reasons not to do so. From 1 January 2021, EEA CMOs are no longer required by the CRM Directive or the UK EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) to represent UK right holders or to represent the catalogues of UK CMOs for online licensing of musical rights. While UK right holders and CMOs are still able to request representation, EEA CMOs may refuse those requests depending on the law in individual member states. In the UK, existing obligations on UK CMOs have been maintained and include those specific to multi-territorial licensing of musical works for online services.

The EU Portability Regulation allows consumers across the EEA to access their online content services (for example, video-on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime) as if they were at home when they travel within the EEA. This means that an online service provider must provide customers with the same content that they can access in their home state when they are temporarily present in another state. The regulation applies only to travel between EEA member states. The EU Portability Regulation no longer applies to UK-EEA travel. In the UK, the regulation has been revoked. Online content service providers are not required to provide content ordinarily available in the UK to a UK customer who is temporarily present in an EEA Member State. This will not prevent service providers offering cross-border portability to their customers on a voluntary basis, but to do so they will need the permission of the owners of the content they provide.

Under the EU Orphan Works Directive, EEA-based cultural heritage institutions (libraries, archives and museums) can digitise and make orphan works available online across all EEA member states without the permission of the right holder. Cultural heritage institutions must register orphan works used under the exception on a database maintained by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The EU orphan works exception no longer applies to UK-based institutions and was repealed from UK law. UK institutions may face claims of copyright infringement if they make orphan works available online in the UK or EEA, including works they had placed online before 1 January 2021. UK cultural heritage institutions who wish to make orphan works available online should consider seeking a licence under the UK’s orphan works licensing scheme or where they have a licence to use the work in the UK, limiting online access to users based in the UK to avoid copyright infringement in the EEA. The UK’s orphan works licensing scheme allows orphan works to be licensed in the UK for commercial and non-commercial uses, subject to the user paying application and licence fees and completing a diligent search for the right holder. The UK scheme operates independently from EUIPO.

The Marrakesh Treaty is an international legal instrument which makes it easier for blind, visually impaired and print disabled people to access works protected by copyright. Brexit affected the application of the Marrakesh Treaty, since the UK has only been a party of it by being an EU Member State. Since leaving the EU, the UK ratified the Marrakesh Treaty in its national capacity, providing continuity and legal clarity for rightholders, disabled people, and the individuals and organisations that support them. The Treaty harmonises copyright exceptions (acts that do not need the permission of the copyright owner) for blind, visually impaired or otherwise print-disabled people so that accessible versions of copyright works can be legally produced under certain conditions without infringing copyright.