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Friday, 12 April 2013

EC proposes revision of trade mark system

The European Commission presented on March 27 a package of initiatives to make trade mark registration systems over the European Union cheaper, quicker, more reliable and predictable.
In a nutshell, the proposed revision would: streamline and harmonise registration procedures (including at Member State level, taking the Community trade mark system as a benchmark); amende outdated provisions, remove ambiguities, and incorporate extensive case law of the Court of Justice; improve the means to fight against counterfeit goods in transit through the EU’s territory; and facilitate cooperation between the Member States’ offices and the EU trade mark agency – the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). As regards fees, the Commission is proposing a principle of "one-class-per-fee" that will enable any business – particularly SMEs – to apply for trade mark protection according to their actual business needs, at a cost that covers those individual needs only.  Under the current system, the fee for registering a trade mark allows for the registration of up to three product classes. Under the revised system, a trade mark can be registered for only one product class. So at EU level, businesses will pay less when they seek to obtain protection for one class of product only.
Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "Trade marks were the EU’s first success in intellectual property rights. The harmonisation of Member States' laws in 1989 and the creation of the Community trade mark in 1994 paved the way for other tools for intellectual property protection, such as design protection and the unitary patent. Today, 20 years later, […] our trade mark system has stood the test of time. There is no need for a major overhaul: the foundations of our system remain perfectly valid. What we are aiming for is a well-targeted modernisation to make trade mark protection easier, cheaper, and more effective."
A trade mark is a sign which serves to distinguish the goods and services of one organisation from those of another. They can be words, logos, devices or other distinctive features which can be represented graphically, or can consist of, for example, the shape of goods, their packaging, sounds and smells. Trade mark registration is one of the strongest ways to defend a brand; a way to ensure that no one else uses it. In Europe, trade marks can be registered at national level at the industrial property (IP) offices of Member States, or at EU level as a Community trade mark (CTM) at the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante. Under the overall system, national and Community trade marks coexist and the same sign may be registered as a Community and/or as a national trade mark. The CTM system consists of one single registration procedure which grants to its owner an exclusive right in the 27 Member States of the EU. National trade mark registration in the EU Member States has been harmonised for over 20 years and the Community trade mark was created more than 15 years ago.

Source: European Commission

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