Knowledge & News

What does the UK Government’s Brexit white paper tell us about the future of IP in the UK?

2 February 2017

The Government’s promised white paper on Brexit was published today. Here, we look at the document itself and consider it alongside the Government’s earlier decision to proceed with ratification of the UPC Agreement.

Following the result of the referendum held on 23 June 2016, there was major uncertainty surrounding the UK’s participation in the forthcoming Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court, there was even speculation that without the UK as a cornerstone the project would fail to launch altogether. Then on 28 November 2016 the UK Government announced its intention to proceed with the process of ratification, with the then minister for IP, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, commenting with respect to Brexit that “We want it [the future settlement with the EU] to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market - and let European businesses do the same in the UK.” This suggests that the Government wishes to preserve the option of full participation in the UPC from an eventual position outside of the EU, in order to ensure that the UK remains an attractive venue for innovation in the years to come. The question of the ultimate supremacy of EU law over the operation of the Court seems to have been kicked into the long grass for the time being, but will inevitably need to be addressed in the forthcoming negotiations.

Whilst there is no commitment in the white paper to anything specific with regards to IP, it generally echoes the minister’s sentiment on the UPC. The white paper sets out the Government’s position on trade and scientific collaboration, suggesting that it may be willing to continue common IP initiatives where they are in the interest of the UK and, in particular, UK exporters.

The white paper makes it clear that the Government wishes to keep trade as free as possible post-Brexit, while acknowledging that the EU already provides consistent regulations in areas like competition and the mutual recognition of goods to aid this. This will undoubtedly be of some comfort to market participants seeking commercial certainty in the post-referendum turbulence. The white paper also mentions the Government’s desire to ensure the continuity and growth of international scientific collaboration.

The white paper can be accessed at


Graham Burnett-Hall

Graham Burnett-Hall Partner London (UK) Solicitor (UK)

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