The 23 June seems a long time ago now. Brexit has not actually happened yet, of course, but we are probably safe to assume that at some point it will, and we have to be ready. What effects will this have other than the obvious and hopefully short term issues of more expensive and more difficult travel to our neighbouring European partners and clients? Potentially, the consequences of Brexit on the TMT sector will be significant.
A great deal of modern law has been driven by the European Courts, and while it is of course open for parliament to pass the necessary Acts to mirror some of this law in England (and one assumes in Scotland), there is nevertheless quite a bit of fallout that is not covered by simple Acts of Parliament.
A possible immediate negative impact is that we will miss out on the imminent abolition of roaming charges for mobile phone usage for UK citizens. Many of us have been caught by extortionate phone bills having returned from our summer holiday in the Med, a skiing trip to the Alps, or a simple visit to a client or European office.
The EU law on roaming charges will be implemented by regulations which are due to come into full operation in June next year. These regulations have been a long time in gestation, starting in June 2007 when a mandatory cap was put on the charges that can be applied for roaming. Under the 2015 EU Roaming and Open Internet Regulation, roaming charges are due to be abolished for all end-users from 15 June 2017.
European Patent Law
European patent law has been developing for decades and the Unified Patent and the Unified Patent Court (UPC), which were both close to materialisation, could now be some way off. The UK (with or without Scotland) will still be part of the European Patent Convention but may not now take part in the UPC. While a UK exit from the EU is not likely to have any effect on law firms representing clients in their dealing with the European Patent Office (EPO), the effects of an exit from the EU (and the current uncertainty until that actually happens) are bound to have an effect on disputes that are currently fomenting.
It might be the case that UK’s inventors, entrepreneurs and tech experts are not left high and dry by Brexit, but ultimately if they are left without protection for even a short amount of time this could cause them significant harm. IP disputes are by their nature typically complex, lengthy and difficult to resolve, and the biggest effect of Brexit on patents and IP disputes is likely to be the delays that are almost inevitable in the formation of new or alternative laws with which to bring IP disputes.
IP, particularly in the TMT sector, is extremely valuable but often has a very short half-life. Like some unstable isotope of uranium, if it is carefully managed and controlled it can be extremely effective, but if it is left to decay it becomes worthless.
This article originally featured in the Oct-Dec edition of Corporate Disputes magazine. To read the full article, click the link below.