The road to transition: Brexit and WebTMS trade mark portfolios

The road to transition: Brexit and WebTMS trade mark portfolios

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1st January 2021 was a significant moment for the UK and EU as the official Brexit transition period came to an end.

It was also significant for the team at WebTMS, as the hard work done over the past four years to make sure that our clients’ trade mark portfolios were updated as automatically and seamlessly as possible came to fruition.

From the date of the referendum, it was clear that intellectual property rights would be affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Rights that were granted in the EU’s jurisdiction would no longer be protected in the UK. As this amounted to more than 2 million EU Trade Marks (EUTMs) and Registered Community Designs (RCDs) it was clear that this was a challenge on a large scale

Intense lobbying and negotiation by the UK IPO and the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys in a turbulent political period and under the shadow of a possible “no deal” Brexit resulted in the commitment by UK government to grant all EU-registered trade mark and design right holders an equivalent UK right on departure from the EU – whether a deal was agreed or not.

With this guidance in place, we could begin work in earnest to prepare for the challenge of making sure that all the rights cloned by the UK IPO would be accurately reflected in our clients’ WebTMS system the instant they were created.

We were committed to making the process as seamless as possible for clients and delivering it all as part of the WebTMS service. We also aimed to ensure that clients were kept fully informed of the process from start to finish.

The scale of the challenge

More than 90,000 EUTMs and ~8,500 RCDs are managed by WebTMS clients, meaning records for equivalent UK rights of all these needed to be cloned. Our technical team devised a way to automate this process, also ensuring that each comparable UKTM and RCD was allocated the right prefix – UK009 for trade marks and adding a 9 for registered designs, plus the UK008 for international trade marks designating EUTM and 9 for International designs covering the EU.  

To achieve a seamless switchover, our developers pulled out all the stops, writing over a thousand of lines of code (not to mention significant testing time!) to ensure all the key fields, dates and information were carried over to the comparable rights records.

Communications and consultation

Throughout the preparation process it was essential we kept clients up to date with progress, so they knew what would happen to their records when the time came. Our usual client webinars included regular Brexit updates, and in November we ran a bumper series of six webinars, during which 570 clients checked in to get the latest information.

As a result of the sessions and the topics that were most important to participants, we developed 25 FAQs and provided the webinar on-demand, along with full documentation covering the transition process. The WebTMS support team and account managers were always on hand to answer any questions.

Full preview allowed clients to prepare

One of the most reassuring features we offered clients was a full preview of what their WebTMS records would look like from 1 January 2021 with all the relevant records cloned into comparable UK rights. This meant they had time to check that everything was as they expected it should be in advance of the date itself.

With preparation and automation on our side, the transition on 1st January 2021 went smoothly, with the team on hand to manage any last-minute issues and ensure that everything went to plan.

Now that we are over the initial hurdle, we are offering post-Brexit guidance to any clients that need it. Initial support is available in the “manual” section of your WebTMS system, we have also sent out a post BREXIT check list and will be running a post BREXIT support webinar as well as our friendly support team being always on hand at [email protected]

Thank you to all our clients and the wider WebTMS community for their support as we negotiated this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event.

If you’d like to find out how WebTMS can help automate and simplify the management of your trade mark portfolio, contact us on [email protected]