For brand owners doing business in the European Union, a Community trade mark (“CTM”) can be an effective means of securing protection.   A CTM is filed at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (“OHIM”) and, once registered, enjoys exclusivity in all EU member states.  This avoids the hassle and surmounting costs that are often involved with filing trade marks at each national office.

In April, the European government agreed to modernise the laws and regulations governing EU trade marks.  Some interesting changes are on the horizon:  

  • Cost cutting – applicants currently pay the government €900 when they lodge a mark in one class.  This will be reduced to €850.  Even more significant are changes to renewals, with costs decreasing from €1350 to €850.
  • Digital trade marks for a digital world – as the law currently stands, a sign must be represented graphically if it is to be accepted as a trade mark by the OHIM.  The removal of this requirement should make it easier for non-traditional marks, such as motions and sounds, to enjoy registration.  
  • Consistency is key – IP offices at the national level will have to adhere to the same procedures, including filing dates and classification systems.  Certification trade marks are also going to be recognised. 
  • Power to the people – in some countries, oppositions and cancellation actions can only be heard by the courts.  The new measures will allow for IP offices to decide on these matters in the first instance.  This will avoid the burdensome costs, procedures and drawn out time frames that are often associated with the court system.

The CTM was created more than 15 years ago and the laws and regulations have remained the same ever since.  The system certainly needs a make over.  Official adoption of the reforms by the European parliament should occur in the next few weeks.  After this, EU countries will incorporate the changes into their national laws with some amendments coming into effect as soon as 90 days after official agreement by parliament.