After BREXIT, on several occasions, I was asked for opining on its effect over Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) protection in Bangladesh. This article is an effort to comfort readers mind. Before going to the deep you must know that all European countries are not member of the European Union (EU) and UK is not one of the founder members of EU (joined in 1973). BREXIT is popularly dissected as the Britain’s Exit from EU. At present, more than half of Bangladesh’s total exports go to the EU. From January to March, 2016 Bangladesh earned 55.5 percent of its export receipts from the EU and the UK is the 3rd single largest destination for Bangladesh's exports. Therefore, an obvious question comes to the readers mind regarding the effect of BREXIT on our commercial relations when IPRs, though small, is a dominant business sector as it covers a wide range of ingenious works: business names and logos are protected by trademarks; inventions by patents; literary, dramatic and musical works by copyright; distinctive shapes by designs; and well-known products for their special qualities or local characteristics are protected by geographical indications. Amongst other commercial agreements with EU i.e. the Commercial Cooperation Agreement, the Trade in Textiles Products and the Financing Agreements [Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI)]; the Cooperation Agreement, 2000 articulated the trade rules most categorically though it is silent regarding the IPRs protection mechanism. On the other hand, the IPRs mechanism between UK and Bangladesh are very ordinarily governed by the rules of the agreement on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that sets minimum standards for IP regulation as applied to nationals of other WTO members. Hence, it is clear that BREXIT will not introduce any immediate direct key effect on IPRs protection mechanism in Bangladesh. Nevertheless, as BREXIT brings a new ‘Geo-Economic’ and ‘Geo-Political’ equation, that will definitely touch “EU-Bangladesh-UK” business relationship. UK’s exit from EU will be a two-year’s negotiation process and during that period UK will be a member of EU and IPRs related laws (regarding Trademarks, Copyright, Patent, Designs, Trade Secrets etc.) will largely remain unchanged though, in Europe, IPR are governed by numerous EU regulations. Interestingly, BREXIT will have different degree of influence on different IP sectors of UK. For example, it will have a major effect on Trademark laws as the European Union Trade Marks (DUTMs), the internal controlling IPRs mechanism between EU &UK, will not be valid. On the other hand, BREXIT will have little effect on current UK patent system as the mechanism is governed by European Patent Office (EPO) which is not an EU organization rather a limb of European Patent Convention (EPC). Alternatively, for Industrial Designs, the EU’s Registered Community Designs (RCDs) will experience significant change like Trademarks as RCD filings would not cover the UK. Again, as Copyrights are mostly territorial and UK is a member of international treaties that protects Copyrights, BREXIT will not have any changing influence on this sector. As our trade largely depends on EU and UK, and as BREXIT will undoubtedly introduce uncertainty in a number of business sectors over the next few years, the IPRs (as an extension of commerce) of Bangladeshi investors, companies and business organizations will experience some difficulties. Traditionally, our business in Europe is centered by and controlled from UK. UK centered Bangladeshi business unit(s) having/owning intellectual properties may take preparation for filing new IP applications for EU and vice versa, as BREXIT’s final effect will largely impact on the IP enforcement and litigation process. The national IPRs protection mechanism in Bangladesh will be unaffected though IP practitioners in Bangladesh will face a little irregularity as the major bulk of international clients filing IP applications in Bangladesh come from the EU region having direct association in UK. However, within these two years of transitional period Bangladesh is going to introduce many positive changes to the existing IPRs policies such as becoming a signatory of Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT), introducing separate national Acts for Patents and Designs etc. Apart from all of these, the BREXIT effect on IPRs will remain uncertain until the nature of EU-UK relationship is totally clarified. Bangladeshi IP owners should identify their rights that are put in vulnerable condition due to BREXIT and may proceed for further application or registration in order to secure maximum protection.
The author is an international IP practitioner and head of the Attorneys of MentorIP.