Eliot Davies, European Patent Attorney for Wynne-Jones IP, talks to Business News Wales about Intellectual Property and supporting clients through changes in the European landscape. He also gives his predictions on the effect of Brexit on Welsh Businesses.
Tell us about yourself and your experience – European Patent Attorney Elliott Davies
I am the European patent attorney with significant experience in drafting and prosecuting patent applications worldwide, but notably in the UK, Europe, US and the Far East. I specialise in protecting inventions relating to a wide range of technologies, including telecommunications, photonics, electronics, and medical devices, and I am frequently engaged by clients who seek to exploit the differences between the prosecution practices of the UK and European Patent Offices, and overseas Patent Offices, to optimise the scope of protection for their inventions.
Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?
Wynne-Jones IP is committed to supporting its clients through any changes in the European intellectual Property (IP) landscape. Our clients are able to benefit from our position as a founding member of the unique European alliance of independent IP law firms – AIPEX.
AIPEX has partner members in key industrial territories of Europe including The Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Hungary and Poland. AIPEX allows us to work together as a team of over 200 professionals to combine national and local knowledge as well as professional capacity and experience in all the necessary technical and legal specialties.
As such, in the event of a “Brexit” Wynne-Jones will be able to provide an agile and adaptable response to any resulting changes related to IP in Europe. We will be able to provide our clients with tailored and flexible services across Europe to meet whatever needs may arise.
Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?
From an intellectual property perspective, the short to medium term issues relate to the uncertainty in the legal landscape in view of the Brexit decision. The uncertainty has resulted in increased costs for companies as they seek to protect their innovations and brands regardless of the long-term outcome of the decision. For example, it is questionable whether registered EU trade marks will continue to provide protection to the UK following Brexit. In the event that no protection is conferred in the UK, then this could potentially leave companies’ brands exposed. Accordingly, some companies are taking the additional step of filing both a UK and an EU registered trade mark so that whatever the outcome, their brand will continue to receive trade mark protection in the UK.
Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?
The United Kingdom (UK) has voted to leave the European Union (EU) and the process to formally withdraw the UK’s membership of the EU will follow. This process is expected to take several years, during which time the UK will remain part of the EU. Nevertheless, intellectual property (IP) law, which includes patents, registered trademarks and registered designs, is one of the areas that is affected by the decision. However, owing to the timescales involved, there is no reason to be concerned about the immediate impact of the Brexit decision on intellectual property rights, but it is sensible to think ahead. Accordingly, to summarise the issues relating to patents, registered trademarks and registered designs:
European patents are administered by the European Patent Office according to the European Patent Convention (EPC). European patents cover all member states to the EPC, which includes the UK, and not just EU states. Also, membership of the EPC is not dependent on membership of the EU – there are presently several member states of the EPC which are not members of the EU, including Norway and Switzerland.
Accordingly, the UK’s relationship with the current European patent system is unaffected by the Brexit decision.
However, it is expected that the proposed so-called “unitary patent”, which has not yet come into force, will be affected by the Brexit decision. The unitary patent will be administered by the European Patent Office as part of the European patent application process. It is intended to provide applicants with the option of designating or protecting their invention in all EU states in one hit, rather than the current process of requiring applicants to make a European patent effective in EU states, separately.
The unitary patent is available to all EU states which have ratified the Unitary Patent Agreement. The Agreement will only come into force once 13 states have ratified the Agreement, including Germany, France and the UK. France has ratified the Agreement and the UK is in the process of ratifying the Agreement, but Germany has not yet commenced the ratification process. Accordingly, it remains to be seen whether the UK will be covered by a Unitary Patent following Brexit. Whatever the outcome, it will still be possible for applicants to select a Unitary Patent and separately cover the UK in accordance with the current European patent system.
EU Trade Marks
It is expected that registered EU trade marks will (eventually) no-longer cover the UK. The uncertainty concerning EU trade marks relates to those EU registered trade marks which are presently in force. Unless the UK governments enacts suitable transitional legislation to recognize registered EU trade mark rights in the UK, then it may be the case that existing registered EU trade marks will no longer provide trade mark protection in the UK. We think this may be unlikely because it would result in a loss of rights to EU trade mark registrants, but we will provide further information when this becomes available.
Similarly, it is expected that registered EU designs will (eventually) no-longer cover the UK.
Again however, the uncertainty concerning registered EU designs relates to those EU registered designs which are presently in force. Unless the UK governments enacts suitable transitional legislation to recognize registered EU design rights in the UK, then it may be the case that existing registered EU designs will no longer provide design protection in the UK.
In addition, EU design law also provides for unregistered EU design rights. This unregistered right provides design protection for a period of 3 years from when the design is made publically available within the territory of the EU. The protection afforded is different from that afforded by unregistered UK design rights, both substantively and in terms of duration. Accordingly, unless any transitional arrangements are put in place, then it is likely that design publications in the UK will no-longer trigger the existence of the right and that unregistered EU design protection will be lost as far as the UK is concerned.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
Wales is a fertile ground for growing and nurturing companies, not least because the investment in infrastructure, but also because of the financial and professional support that is available to companies. There are a number of industrially specific networking platforms which facilitate collaboration between companies in addition to the South Wales Chamber of Commerce which provides a useful one-stop-shop for helping companies in their day-to-day operation, as well as providing direct voice to the Welsh Government.
However, the Welsh brand often goes unnoticed on the world stage and so more effort should be placed on promoting Wales internationally.