How has Brexit aggravated the unseen rise in UK Trademark Disputes?
An unseen increase in UK Trademark activity
The UK has experienced a record-breaking influx of UK Trademark applications and consequently, a flood of disputes. According to Mathys & Squire’s research, applications for UK Trademarks shot up by 124% from 2020 to 2021 and disputes, forcing the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to recruit a further 100 employers to manage the applications.
Major Implications of Brexit
The uprise in UK Trademark applications and disputes can largely be boiled down to the implications of Brexit. As off 31stJanuary 2020, the UK withdrew from the EU and entered a transition period that ended 31stDecember 2020. Since Trademarks were the most harmonised element of IP rights, it suffered the most change by the end of the transition. Hence, in line with the Withdrawal Agreement Act, European Trademarks (EUTM) could not enjoy protection within the UK from 1stJanuary 2021.
How do existing and future Trademarks gain protection post-Brexit?
Existing EUTMs – Under the Act, the IPO provided protection for existing EUTM holders by automatically replacing it with a UK comparable Trademark. Thus, these UK rights are recorded on the UK Trademark register with a UK legal status and retained EUTM file date. Similar to EUTM, it requires renewal every 10 years.
Pending EUTMs – Any pending EUTM applications made prior to the 1stJanuary 2021 must have reapplied as a UK Trademark by the 30thSeptember 2021 to keep the same Trademark and the earlier pending EUTM filing date. Within this nine-month bracket, businesses would have raced to secure their distinctive Trademark within the UK. This surge would have likely had a ripple effect into subsequent disputes.
New UK Trademark Applications
Since it is not possible to have a EUTM in the UK, any new Trademark applicant with the hopes to gain protection within the EU’s member states and the UK must complete two applications rather than only one. This lengthier process means there is more ground to cover, an increased number of applications and naturally, a spike in disputes.
Increased awareness and access to IP protection
The rise can also be partially credited to a widely increased awareness of the importance of IP protection. The IPO has created a user-friendly platform for businesses to apply easily for UK trademarks at a low cost of a few hundred pounds. The cost is a small price to pay in exchange for protecting businesses’ unique character and reputation, especially within increasingly crowded and competitive markets. Further, new features available, such as Google alerts, aid businesses to monitor new and similar Trademarks against their own.
It is vital for businesses to police the entry of new Trademarks and in line with this, Trademark disputes have risen.