From 23 March 2016, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) will change its name to the "European Union Intellectual Property Office". Any references to "Community trade mark" will change to "European Union trade mark".

The changes are very much welcome and will undoubtedly simplify terminology, making it easier to understand what OHIM and Community trade marks actually are.

What is the European Union Intellectual Property Office?

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (formerly OHIM) is the European Union agency (based in Alicante, Spain) responsible for managing European Union trade marks.

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a sign that is used to distinguish goods or services of one undertaking from those of another.

Trade marks can be registered or unregistered, though the former provides greater legal certainty and should therefore afford a higher level of protection.

Holding a registered trade mark will also potentially allow the owner to more readily commercialise their rights (for example, by licensing them to a third party in return for a royalty).

What is a European Union trade mark?

Trade marks will generally operate on a country-by-country basis and only protect you in the territory you registered the mark in. For example, if you registered a domestic trade mark with the UK Intellectual Property Office your protection would be limited to the UK.

A European Union trade mark is obtained via a single filing with the European Union Intellectual Property Office and, following a successful application, attracts protection in every country in the European Union. It is typically more expensive to apply for a European Union trade mark than a UK-only one, but the rewards are correspondingly greater due to the wider scope of protection.