On January 30, 2019 EUIPO Grand Board of decisions was recently faced with the case of the application of the “Brexit” Trademark. The case concerns the eligibility for registration of the figurative sign “BREXiT” for ‘energy drinks containing caffeine; beer’ in Class 32.

 The application was refused by the examiner for lack of distinctiveness and against public policy as it was pointed out that the relevant public includes all consumers in the EU as they frequently encounter the term through the mass media and the internet.

With respect to the infringement of public policy or to accepted principles of morality the GB found that word ‘Brexit’ denotes a sovereign political decision, that was taken legally and has no negative moral connotations; it is neither an incitement to crime, nor an emblem for terrorism or a byword for sexism or racism. The word alone does not express an opinion. The fact that part of the UK public may have been upset by a controversial decision taken democratically does not constitute an offence. The GB therefore concluded that the sign cannot be deemed to be contrary to the accepted principles of morality, in and of itself, nor when used as a brand for the goods applied for.

Nevertheless, the term was, already at its filing date, so well-known to consumers as the name of an event of a historical and political nature that it would not be associated, prima facie, with specific goods originating from a specific trader. It may only acquire distinctiveness if consumers are sufficiently exposed to it in a trade context. Moreover, the colours and font are unable to divert the attention of the public away from the non-distinctive message conveyed by the word. The background evoking the Union jack accentuates this message. For the above reasons, the GB refused the application and dismissed the appeal.

EU Trademarks and the Brexit


The UK Patent Office published some clarifications what would happen with all European trademarks in case of a hard Brexit without a deal with the EU.

In that case, The UK will recognize all registered EU trademarks and will transform them into national trademarks. They will be indicated with UK009 in front of their EU numbers.

There will be no cost for the relevant owners and as little administrative burden as possible. However, the Patent Office will not issue trademark certifications for them. Information for these marks will be available in the UK trademark database.

When it comes to EU applications for trademarks, their owners will have up to 9 months to file identical applications in The UK. In that scenario, they will use the same priority date from their EU applications.

The full text can be found here.

Brexit and your EU Trademark: and now what?

The European Union Trade Mark (the "EUTM") is a popular and versatile vehicle used to protect trade mark rights across the 28 Member States of the EU.
Brexit could result in the UK no longer being part of the EUTM regime because the EUTM Regulation would no longer be directly applicable in the UK.

At worst, in the absence of transitional legislation, existing EUTMs would no longer extend to the UK, and applicants would have to register a separate national trade mark to cover the UK. The UK Intellectual property Office (“IPO”) ha benne keen to ease any fears of UK trade mark owners although its statement avoided any mention of the one main approach that could have allayed such fears, i.e., transitional legislation to ensure the future recognition of EUTMs in the UK. It emphasizes in its statement that the UK government is exploring "various options" to ensure the long-term coverage of EUTMs, but fails to elaborate on exactly what these options may be. The IPO also hints at a future consultation to gauge the popularity of likely options among users of the trade mark system, so we can expect further detail on the government's plans in due course (although, again, the IPO makes no comment on timings).

The IPO does clarify that, even after the UK leaves the EU, UK businesses will still be able to register an EUTM which will cover all remaining EU Member States but anything other than that position would have been particularly surprising.

More tellingly, the IPO points to the fact that the UK is also a member of the Madrid system for the international registration of marks (the "Madrid System"), which could possibly signal a greater role for this international regime in the future of UK trade mark protection. The Madrid System is an international trade mark system, which allows users to file one application in one language, and pay one set of fees to protect trade marks in up to 113 territories, including the EU.

We continue to believe that, because of the current uncertainties and in order to minimize any risks associated with the Brexit change-over, anyone who owns EUTMs and views the United Kingdom as an important market may want to consider filing for United Kingdom trade mark registrations now, rather than waiting to see what happens when the United Kingdom formally exits the EU. And for new trade marks, we recommend filing in both the EU and the United Kingdom if the United Kingdom will be an important market for you. This increases costs only slightly and clearly secures a priority date for the United Kingdom.