From today, new rules governing trade marks in the EU take effect that will improve conditions for businesses to innovate and to benefit from more effective trade mark protection against counterfeits, including non-authentic goods in transit through the EU's territory.
The reforms are also aimed at making trade mark registration systems throughout the EU more accessible and efficient for businesses in terms of lower costs and complexity, increased speed, greater predictability and legal certainty.
What are trade marks?
Trade marks or 'brands' are signs used to distinguish the goods and services of one company from those of another. They take the form of words, logos, devices or other distinctive features. Trade marks not only identify the origin of goods and services, but also guarantee consistent quality, as well as being a basis for publicity and advertising.
A trade mark can become one of a company's most important assets. It is the mark through which a business can attract and retain customer loyalty, and create value and growth.
Cheaper and faster registration
Trade marks can be registered either at national level, at the industrial property offices of EU countries, or at EU level as an EU trade mark. A new framework of cooperation between the EU and national registry offices will ensure greater convergence of practices and standards.
The registration process is also being streamlined and harmonised across all EU Member States in order to remove burdensome procedures, making it both cheaper and faster.
Reduced renewal fees and increased legal certainty
Renewal fees for EU trade marks will be cut by up to 37%, and trade mark owners, with the assistance of customs authorities, will be given the authority to seize counterfeit goods transiting through the EU. This will also safeguard the public against unlawful and potentially harmful goods.
Changes to the legislation governing trade marks (for example, through harmonised rules on the designation of goods and services for which trade mark protection is granted) will increase legal certainty and clarity for businesses looking to register and enforce their trade mark rights in Europe.
The convergence of trade mark practices and processes throughout the EU will also create a more robust and streamlined system fit for the digital age.
A new EU Intellectual Property Office
The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) will replace the former Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) located in Alicante, Spain, and the EU trade mark will be the new name for the Community Trade Mark.
The reforms will also modernize the definition of trade marks to make it easier to register special signs that cannot be represented graphically (such as sounds) since their representation will be accepted in any appropriate form using generally available technology (e.g. electronic file format).
Economic impact of trade mark-intensive industries
According to a joint study by the OHIM and the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2013, almost 21% of all jobs in the EU (around 45.5 million Europeans) during the 2008 to 2010 period were created by trade mark-intensive industries. Over the same period, trade mark industries are shown to have generated almost 34% of total economic activity (GDP) in the EU, worth €4.16 trillion.