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EU Exit: Intellectual Property

How intellectual property processes and rights have changed.

EU Exit: Intellectual Property

The way businesses protect their intellectual property outside the UK changed on 1 January 2021, when the transition period ended. 

Some of the changes to protect intellectual property are:


  • EU Trademarks no longer protect trademarks in the UK but still protect trademarks in EU member states. On the 1 January 2021, the IPO created a comparable UK trademark for all right holders with an existing EU trademark which offers protection in the UK. 

  • UK businesses can still apply to the EU Intellectual Property Office for an EU Trademark.

  • For guidance on changes to international trademark registrations click here
  • There will be no changes to UK-registered trademarks as a result of the UK leaving the EU.


  • Protected international design registrations designating the EU are no longer valid in the UK. These rights have been automatically replaced by UK rights.
  • All registered and published RCDs will have comparable UK designs, which will be recorded on the UK register. They will retain the registration and application dates recorded against the corresponding RCDs and will inherit any priority dates.
  • As fully independent UK rights, they may be challenged, assigned, licensed or renewed separately from the original RCD.
  • For guidance on registered designs click here.
  • Unregistered Community designs (UCDs), are no longer valid in the UK. These rights have been replaced by UK rights.
  • For guidance on unregistered community designs click here
  • For guidance on changes to international EU protected designs click here


Businesses can apply for a European patent through the Intellectual Property Office or direct to the European Patent Office (EPO) to protect their patent in more than 30 countries in Europe, using the (non-EU) European Patent Convention (EPC).

Parallel Trade

Now that the UK has left the EU, the UK government has the regulatory freedom to decide on how it wishes to manage future parallel trade into the UK.

  • The IP rights in goods placed on the UK market by, or with the consent of the right holder after the transition period may no longer be considered exhausted in the EEA. This means that businesses parallel exporting these IP-protected goods from the UK to the EEA might need the right holder’s consent.
  • The IP rights in goods placed on the EEA market by, or with the consent of the right holder after the transition period will continue to be considered exhausted in the UK. This means that parallel imports into the UK from the EEA will be unaffected.
  • Further guidance can be found here


  • Most UK copyright works (such as books, films and music) will still be protected in the EU and the UK. This is because of the UK’s continued participation in the international treaties on copyright. For the same reason, EU copyright works will continue to be protected in the UK. This applies to works made before and after 1 January 2021.
  • Certain cross-border copyright arrangements that are unique to EU member states no longer apply to the UK. (cross-border portability of online content services, copyright clearance for satellite broadcasts, reciprocal protection for database rights and the orphan works exception.)
  • Further guidance can be found here

Geographical Indications

A geographical indication is an IP right used on products that have a specific geographical origin. They possess qualities or a reputation due to that origin, such as Scotch Whisky or Stilton cheese.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs leads on agricultural and food Geographical Indications (GIs) in the UK.

Further guidance including the new UK GI scheme can be found here

Contact the Growth Hub