UK businesses will still benefit from streamlined access to global IP rights after Brexit

Engineering and tech-led businesses in the UK will continue to benefit from access to a streamlined system for obtaining registered designs protection after Brexit, following confirmation that the UK is to officially join the Hague Agreement next year.

A recent announcement by the Minister for Intellectual Property, Jo Johnson, has confirmed that the UK will become a fully signed-up member of the Hague system for industrial designs by 31 March 2018. The Agreement allows UK applicants to register an industrial design in up to 66 territories around the world, through one streamlined application.

The World Intellectual Property Office will ensure that each successful application is processed and legally ratified on an international scale. This will result in reduced costs for businesses which would otherwise have to submit separate applications, individually applicable to each territory.

The integrated administrative approach offered by WIPO also means that holders will be able to renew their design rights registrations through a single, manageable procedure.

Although businesses in the UK can currently utilise the Hague system through its EU membership, importantly this announcement will ensure that the system remains accessible irrespective of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. It also means that when the UK leaves the EU, UK businesses will still be able to register a Community design covering all remaining EU member states directly through the Hague system.

David Paton, senior associate and patent attorney at intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers, described the announcement as an opportunity to raise awareness of the valuable protection provided by design rights.

He said: “Until now, the Hague Agreement has largely flown under the radar. This announcement should encourage businesses to consider design rights registrations, which despite often being overlooked, provide a cost-effective and efficient form of intellectual property protection. By using the Hague system to file design registrations, businesses are potentially able to reduce their expenses whilst benefiting from commercial protection and exclusivity in more territories.”

While it is possible to register a design nationally with the UK Intellectual Property Office, and to obtain EU-wide protection via the European Union Intellectual Property Office, the Hague Agreement provides a single streamlined procedure for registering design rights in any number of member states of the Hague Agreement, including all EU member states, the USA, Japan and more.

The Agreement’s adoption into UK law means that UK businesses will continue to have access to efficient international registration procedures.