UK Prime Minister Theresa May trigged article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty yesterday, beginning the countdown to the country’s exit from the EU.

But what does this mean for IP?

It seems that the fate of the Unified Patent Court remains uncertain—May’s 12-step plan, released in January, sparked concerns that the UK may seek to leave the UPC after Brexit, if it even joins the project at all.

Despite Baroness Neville-Rolfe, former UK Minister of State for Intellectual Property, announcing in November 2016 that the UK will implement the unitary patent and UPC, May’s statement made it difficult to see how the UK could remain part of the UPC after exiting the EU.

“We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave,” said May, in a comment inconsistent with the UPC Agreement—that contracting states will be required to submit to the supremacy of EU law insofar as it applies to the UPC.

The UK has still not ratified the agreement.

In January, the UPC preparatory committee announced that the UPC can become operational in December this year.

This statement was met with a critical sentiment—as nearly three quarters of WIPR readers believed this was unlikely.

Firmly in the mix

In March, WIPR attended the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys’ spring conference, where there was optimism over Brexit.

According to Adam Williams, deputy director of the international policy directorate at the UK Intellectual Property Office, IP is “firmly in the mix” for Brexit negotiations.

In addition, Hilde Vold-Burgess, managing partner at Acapo in Norway, said that the UK should see Brexit as a “big opportunity”.

This sentiment was echoed by 63% of WIPR readers in a survey.

However, some were sceptical. While one reader explained that there are opportunities in even the most unfortunate circumstances, generally Brexit will be “awful for UK businesses, awful for UK individuals, and awful for the EU”.

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