trade deal

From the moment the government announced that the UK would apply to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), in March 2021, we worked tirelessly to raise awareness of a potential inconsistency between the intellectual property provisions of the CPTPP and those of the European Patent Convention (‘EPC’).

The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. It is said to account for around 13% of the world’s GDP and reduces barriers to trade and investment by eliminating tariffs on goods and services.

We worked with government negotiators, our political advisors at Cicero and with important stakeholders in CPTPP states to explain the risks, not just to the UK patent profession but for all innovative businesses with international patent strategies, and then to build support for the UK position on intellectual property.

The government announced on 31 March that the UK had reached an Agreement in Principle with all CPTPP states and on 16 July Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch formally signed the treaty to join the trade bloc.

As Lee Davies explains in his Chief Executive’s message at the head of this report, a key aspect of the agreement was the successful negotiation of a derogation of the patent grace period provision, removing the potential inconsistency with the EPC and any uncertainties about the UK’s continued membership of the non-EU European Patent Office (‘EPO’).

Upon accession, the Trade Secretary wrote to CIPA President Daniel Chew thanking us for our support in the negotiations.

Daniel said: “Joining the CPTPP is an historic moment for the UK which opens doors to new trade partnerships and cements our role as an innovative global trading nation.

“We congratulate the Government and Department for Business and Trade on preserving the UK’s existing – and vitally important – international obligations around intellectual property while acceding to this milestone trade agreement.”

Adam Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Intellectual Property Office, said he was grateful to CIPA and other UK IP stakeholders for their “positive engagement throughout the accession process and for their support in achieving a positive outcome”.

He said: “I’m delighted that the UK has officially signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement.

“A well-functioning IP environment is vital for UK businesses to be able to succeed at home; and the same is equally true for businesses looking to succeed internationally. We have a hard-earned, and well-deserved, reputation as a leading IP office with both UK industry and our international partners. Our goal is to use this reputation to help create an international IP environment that maximises the benefits of innovation, creativity and science for the UK economy and wider society.

“The UK has ensured that accession negotiations with CPTPP were consistent with the UK’s interests and the Government’s policies and priorities on intellectual property, and with the UK’s existing international obligations, including the (non-EU) European Patent Convention (EPC).”

We look forward to continuing to work with government to realise the potential of the CPTPP and other free trade agreements, and to ensure that UK patent attorneys are front and centre in the government’s strategy for an innovation-led economy.

Sarah Roberts-Favell

Former CPTPP IP Negotiator for Department for Business and Trade (DBT)

“I value CIPA’s advice and expertise in IP issues, whether related to trade negotiations or other international IP issues. Throughout the process of the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) CIPA engaged constructively, providing evidence and case studies during consultations and negotiations in order to support a successful grace period outcome. It is important that Government policy experts understand directly from business and experts what stakeholder priorities are when designing, negotiating and implementing IP policy, CIPA have been key to helping provide this.”

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