8 March 2012

Where's the value in Europe?

We know what great value the CTM provides to European Union wide trade mark protection. But where do the other member states sit in comparison?

Clearly, IP Offices have operational costs and it is generally regarded that they should be self-funded by their official fees yet at the same time this unique European situation sees them competing with OHIM. (You could argue that the Secretary of State Trademark Departments are in competition with the USPTO in the United States, but I don't feel this is quite the same comparison.)

I will base a definition of "value" on a country's official fee and its population. The table below represents a one-class trade mark filing and it should not be surprising that the largest countries provide the best value with the eight most populated EU countries immediately following OHIM. Both Spain and Italy present excellent value in covering their national jurisdictions although value is relative when it comes to Italy given the length of time (a few years) it takes for an application to mature to registration.

Country
Official Fee (€)
Population
Price per million of population (€)
European Union
900
502672151
1.79
Spain
118
47150819
2.50
Italy
173.72
60397353
2.88
France
200
64709480
3.09
United Kingdom
205
62353795
3.29
Germany
300
81757595
3.67
Poland
279
38163895
7.31
Benelux
240
27906526
8.60
Romania
200
21466174
9.32
Portugal
116.61
10636979
10.96
Sweden
170
9347899
18.19
Czech Republic
200
10512397
19.03
Greece
216
11125179
19.42
Hungary
278
10013628
27.76
Slovakia
166
5424057
30.60
Finland
215
5350475
40.18
Lithuania
140
3329227
42.05
Austria
359
8372930
42.88
Bulgaria
328
7576751
43.29
Ireland
247
4467854
55.28
Denmark
317
5547088
57.15
Cyprus ᵅ
102.52
801851
127.85
Latvia
179
2248961
79.59
Slovenia
250
2054119
121.71
Estonia
185.33
1340274
138.28
Malta
116.47
416333
279.75
ᵅ excludes northern part of Cyprus

When it comes to applications in three classes, the picture changes a little. We make this comparison as some EU National Offices, like the OHIM, have a basic official fee including up to three classes.

Country
Official Fee (€)
Population
Price per million of population (€)
European Union
900
502672151
1.79
France
200
64709480
3.09
Germany
300
81757595
3.67
Italy
241.72
60397353
4.00
United Kingdom
325
62353795
5.21
Spain
270
47150819
5.73
Benelux
240
27906526
8.60
Poland
509
38163895
13.34
Romania
300
21466174
13.98
Portugal
177.45
10636979
16.68
Czech Republic
200
10512397
19.03
Greece
276
11125179
24.81
Hungary
278
10013628
27.76
Slovakia
166
5424057
30.60
Sweden
329
9347899
35.20
Finland
215
5350475
40.18
Austria
359
8372930
42.88
Bulgaria
328
7576751
43.29
Denmark
317
5547088
57.15
Lithuania
210
3329227
63.08
Ireland
417
4467854
93.33
Latvia
237
2248961
105.38
Slovenia
250
2054119
121.71
Estonia
274.79
1340274
205.03
Cyprus ᵅ
307.56
801851
383.56
Malta
349.41
416333
839.27
ᵅ excludes northern part of Cyprus

You may note that not all EU countries use the Euro so there has been some exchange rate conversions for some official fees. Please forgive any errors in my maths too! Some of the data sources I have used may contain inaccuracies.

The tables do not take into account professional fees which can vary although Europe is becoming fairly aligned. Please don't misconstrue this comment as there can, of course, be some large differences between firms but, generally speaking, they are not as wide as they could be considering this is a block of over 500 million people.

Austria, Denmark and Ireland are standouts for me in terms of being expensive especially with most agents being based in the respective capitals. As beautiful as Vienna, Copenhagen and Dublin are, none are particularly cheap and overheads can be high.

The same can be said for Paris and London, but France and the UK arguably offer some of the best value (outside of OHIM) because of the fair number of direct applicants. I cannot comment for the French INPI so much but the UK IPO is very geared towards assisting "Do-It-Yourself" applicants. Also whilst Paris and London are home to the majority of French and British IP firms, provincial firms are not insubstantial in number.

Foreign trade mark owners will continue to gravitate towards the Community Trade Mark but national routes will continue to offer a less expensive alternative for local applicants who maintain national client bases and who are yet to be able to exploit the Common Market.

However, as the CTM Register, in particular, becomes cluttered some trade mark owners may look to register in key national markets separately where opposition rates are far lower and whilst searching the EU is expensive and time-consuming. I am almost certain not every CTM owner has a comprehensive watch in place for all Trade Mark Registers in the EU.