Nonetheless, it will have implications on how trade mark records and data are managed. This might be pretty dull too, but it is important.
How data is managed in IP databases and on Trade Mark Registers is critical to trade mark management whether it is to ensure the proper management and advice of your business/your client's trade marks, or by having reliable information on the rights of third parties.
If Brexit does not ultimately happen - a result that may see IP professionals discovering a skill for cartwheeling - then the status quo will be maintained.
If Brexit does happen, in whatever form (hard/soft/no deal), the UK has indicated that it will continue to recognise EU rights by 'cloning' them into an equivalent UK right.
I previously speculated that this would be automatic. At the time, many thought they'd instead need to be a formal conversion procedure. Let me not be smug (and, alas, I don't know this week's lottery numbers) as I may not be right - the UKIPO's guidance states equivalent UK rights will be created with "minimal administrative burden", but it is anticipated it will be done proactively by the UKIPO.
The UKIPO's guidance states that "any business, organisation or individual that may not want to receive a new comparable UK registered trade mark or design will be able to opt out". However, to me, it seems that it will be easier (and cheaper) to allow a new right to be created so how many will go to the effort of opting out?
"this is a worldwide issue, not specific to UK businesses and attorneys"
So on Brexit day, all existing EU registrations will be cloned into a UK registration with the same details. Check how many EU registrations you have on your records... take a deep breath and realise all (or nearly all presuming many will not opt out) of these will need duplicating into a UK record - and this is a worldwide issue, not specific to UK businesses and attorneys, as it relates to anyone owning EU trade marks.
I expect many databases will have a tool (or develop a tool) to allow this to be done automatically. Nonetheless, it may represent a big increase in the number of records a business is managing. Some businesses pay per record on their IP database so the impact on their overheads is immediate.
It should be mentioned that cloned EU rights are likely to have a letter prefix to their numbers and this may require a more manual update. This currently happens when searching the UK Register whereby UK national rights are prefixed 'UK' and EU rights are prefixed 'EU', and there are different prefixes for those that are designations in International Registrations.
High lapse rate?
Of all the EU marks on the Register, how many of the owners have commercial interests in the UK? Certainly not all and so I think it's fair to anticipate a high lapse rate at renewal time. This could be the first time private practice firms have the opportunity to charge fees on these records. Some private practice firms struggle to make money on the renewals part of their business - the work involved in regular chasing clients for instructions that end up being a "not interested" is typically not money making. A high(er) lapse rate would only make this worse.
Then there are the UK clients that would often file in the UK first and then the EU (and other countries) come later as their plans to penetrate other markets firm up. These clients are going to end up with two UK registrations with a reasonable likelihood that the first (older) one will be maintained and they won't need to renew the second (cloned) one when it comes due for renewal. Nonetheless, there would still be an obligation for a private practice firm (and in-house department) to keep records of the second cloned one.
There's also International Registrations designating the EU. Here the UKIPO will support this to be cloned into an equivalent UK national right. They may alter this stance if WIPO will allow International Registrations designating the EU to have "continuation of effects" to the UK with "minimal administrative burden" (e.g. no fees).
Let's say WIPO will allow continuation of effects but will require payment of a fee. Now a UK business who has an IR designating the EU (with base mark from the UK) could now request a continuation of effects of the EU designation to the UK. This would mean they have triplicate protection in the UK (1 - the original UK national registration, 2 - a cloned national from the EU designation and 3 - a fresh (continuation of effects) designation of the UK in the International Registration). I hope you are following me, but this is not completely far fetched as it would allow a business to let the two national UK registrations lapse, maintaining their rights in the UK and EU (and any other countries designated in the IR) exclusively through the International Registration.
Those involved in data management should be prepared, and this has only explored registered EU marks, not those pending on Brexit day.
Duplicate protection is not always bad. I worked on a portfolio audit once that had old East and West German registrations. Upon German reunification both registrations extended to the whole of Germany. My audit discovered the old West German registration had inadvertently lapsed - the duplicate (East) German registration came to the rescue to ensure protection across Germany. Every cloud...