Key changes in the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on amending the EU Trademark Regulation, which has been in effect since March 2016 (Regulation (EU) 2015/2424) will enter into force on October 1, 2017. This will in particular open up new options and opportunities for companies to protect trademarks:
1. An “EU certification mark” will be introduced, which means that goods and services under this mark (e.g., a seal of quality) meet a certain standard that is determined in the regulations governing use of the mark and that is monitored by the holder of the certification mark.
The monitoring will be performed independently of the company that manufactures the goods or performs the services. In order to guarantee independence, the holder of the certification mark itself is not allowed to use it for products or services for which the certification exists.
By registering the EU certification mark, the quality of the certified product or service can be particularly emphasized. The German Trademark Act has not previously included a certification mark. Seals of quality were therefore often registered by business associations as collective marks.
2. The requirement of graphic representability of the trademark applied for – previously absolute grounds for refusal – will be eliminated as of October 1, 2017. The registration of new signs of which an EU trademark may consist will thus be facilitated. In particular, “multimedia trademarks” that are of increasing economic importance and consist of a combination of an image and sound and therefore can only be presented in electronic form, will be accepted. It will, however, also facilitate to register other new signs of which an EU trademark may consist, e.g., sound or olfactory marks that cannot be graphically represented.
The representation of the marks in the appropriate form must, however, be “clear, precise, self-contained, easily accessible, intelligible, durable, and objective.” Legal consultation will still be advised during the application procedure.
3. Finally, from October 2017, a number of procedural changes will apply that are aimed at increasing legal security for applicants and holders of EU trademarks. At the same time, the proportion of applications against which objections are made as a result of formal errors is supposed to be reduced.
The new rules as of October 1, 2017 show that the principle of EU trademark law has proven itself and met the requirements and expectations of companies. On the basis of ist success, the system is being continually developed to make it more efficient and coherent and to adapt it to suit the digital era.