An integral part of the UK intellectual property system has been a focus on balancing creator protection with fair competition and consumer choice. Brexit means that this balance must once again be assessed as the EEA regime in relation to exhaustion (i.e. the movement of parallel imports AKA grey market goods) no longer applies in the UK.
On 7 June 2021, the UK Government launched a consultation to collate views on the future of the exhaustion of IP rights in the UK. The consultation is of particular interest to IP rights owners who export or import some or all of their goods.
The consultation identifies four options:
Unilateral application of a regional EEA regime - known as a “UK+” regime - the current status quo
National exhaustion (i.e. a first UK sale can only stop a further UK sale)
International exhaustion (i.e. first sale anywhere in the world would exhaust all IP rights)
Mixed (i.e. exhaustion of rights applies to varying degrees depending on the IP right)
The consultation document, response forms and further details are here. An extract from the consultation document setting out the key options is below.