Trade mark protection in the EU gets much cheaper and easier to obtain

The European Commission and EU Member States have decided to lower further the fees payable to the Community agency responsible for granting EU-wide trademark rights, OHIM (Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market, located in Alicante, Spain), and to simplify the registration procedure. This measure, which follows an initial reduction in 2005 (IP/05/1289), will make trademark protection much cheaper and easier to obtain for businesses operating in the EU single market, saving them some €60 million a year. It will come into force on 1 May 2009.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said: “This is good news for businesses in Europe. The substantial reduction in fees and the simplification of the procedure means much more affordable and easier access to EU-wide trademark protection. This will promote entrepreneurship and stimulate economic activity, which is essential in times of economic crisis. In particular, small and medium-sized enterprises, for which the costs and procedure of obtaining this protection are often a heavy burden, will profit from these improvements.” OHIM’s President, Wubbo de Boer, said: “For a small company, protecting your trademark at the Community level, protects your future right to have free access to the single European market for your goods and services. For larger companies, it is an essential tool for doing business internationally.”

The fee reduction and simplification of procedure essentially consist of setting the registration fee for Community trademarks to zero. Businesses will therefore pay only an application fee, and will no longer have to pay a separate registration fee. As a result, the processing time for the registration of a Community trademark will also become significantly shorter.

In practice, this means that, instead of paying the amount of € 1750 for the application and registration of a Community trademark, businesses will be charged only an application fee of € 1050 in the future. Those who file their applications via the Internet will benefit from a greater reduction and will be charged merely an application fee of € 900 in place of the total amount of € 1600 to be paid at present.

These fee reductions imply that in the future businesses will pay 40% less for obtaining a Community trademark – and as much as 44% less when using electronic means.

Moreover, the individual fee for international trademark applications and registrations designating the European Community under the Madrid Protocol will go down from € 1450 to € 870, which also corresponds to a 40% decrease.

The background

OHIM was established by the Council of Ministers in 1994. Since the start of its operations in 1996 the demand for Community trademarks has been growing steadily and at times dramatically. In total OHIM has registered more than 500,000 trademarks to date on behalf of hundreds of thousands of companies from all over the world. As a self-financing agency of the EU, OHIM’s budget comes entirely from the fees paid by the businesses that use its services. It does not receive any subsidy or financial support from EU tax-payers and, as a non-profit organisation, its budget must be balanced.

Over the last few years, OHIM has successfully put in place an ambitious programme aimed at increasing productivity and improving efficiency, while at the same time offering a quality of service that has attracted increasing numbers of users. Despite the reduction of fees in 2005, OHIM has lately been generating very substantial cash reserves.

As a result of this, OHIM, while continuing to invest in improving its services – in particular its online services – and in reducing response times, can further share the benefits of its efficiency gains with the entire business community, and small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, for whom the costs of IP protection and enforcement are often a challenging proposition.

This further substantial reduction of fees has been the subject of extensive discussions with Member States. It constitutes the first element of a wider sequence of measures to better balance the OHIM budget in future, on which Member States agreed at a joint meeting of the Administrative Board and Budget Committee of OHIM in September 2008.

Source: European Commission

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