28 June 2012

Got a Registered Community Design, got Europe?

As my 'Got a CTM, got Europe?' blog proved popular and continues to receive regular hits - and following on from my blog on the rising importance of registered designs - it seems worthwhile to write about protecting designs throughout Europe.

As before, I will use the definition provided by Wikipedia for Europe.

We will focus on the applicant being from a member state of the Hague System (Geneva Act) e.g. an applicant from the European Union. This rules out applicants from non-Hague countries such as the United States. However, a US applicant with "a real and effective commercial or industrial establishment" or "habitual residence" in a member state could take advantage of the system. Ownership could also be through a trust company incorporated in, say, the EU and then licensed back. However, there is no provision for the recording of a license at WIPO against a Hague International Registration which could make this less desirable.

Benefits of the Hague system, contrasting to the Madrid Protocol for trade marks, are:

1. There is no need for a base registration.
2. You can designate your own country (e.g. the EU) in an application.

This means a single International application can be made to cover the home country of, say, the European Community plus Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.

For the sake of argument, if we were to file one design with seven reproductions and no deferment of publication it would cost CHF 1560 (approximately €1300/$1630) in official fees.

The inclusion of the European Community would not provide protection to any further territories within Europe but outside of the European Union with the exception, as far as I understand, of the Isle of Man. My understanding extends further to it not providing protection to Gibraltar, as I have previously blogged.

Nevertheless, the Isle of Man is covered by a registration in the United Kingdom. A registration in the United Kingdom is required to provide automatic protection to Gibraltar. It also provides protection to the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (as I cannot see that design legislation was delegated to the Republic of Cyprus government). It is this same law, dating from when Cyprus was a British colony, that still appears to be in force to protect designs in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus ("TRNC"). The TRNC, recognised only by Turkey, has not introduced design legislation of its own.

Obtaining a Registered Design in the United Kingdom, under the same criteria as the International filing above, would cost £60 in official fees (approximately €75/$95).

Such a UK Registered Design would need to be extended to the Channel Islands. Official fees here are £120 in Jersey (approximately €150/$190) and £100 in Guernsey (approximately €125/$155) plus an official fee of £22 (approximately €28/$35) each to the UK Designs Registry for the certified copies required to substantiate the applications locally.

Kosovo introduced a new designs law in 2011 with the assistance of OHIM. With official fees of €40 (approximately $50) it is also inexpensive.

The EU designation will cover Denmark, but a Danish national design registration is required to provide protection to the remote Faroe Islands. Denmark operates a deposit system for designs meaning they are registered quickly and efficiently. The basic fee is DKK 1200 (approximately €165/$205).

This means a significant part of Europe can be covered by six simple applications at a very reasonable cost (official fees of approximately €1911/$2395).

Many businesses will consider protection for Gibraltar, the TRNC and the British bases on Cyprus, the Channel Islands and Faroe Islands as unnecessary. The estimated combined population is little over half a million with over half of this figure made up of the TRNC's population, although this figure is disputed. Omitting filings to cover these territories will see official fees drop to approximately €1340/$1680).

You may have agent charges on top of the official fees and, with the probable exception of a Hague filing, agent fees will be more expensive than those charged by the Design Offices. I can speak for my firm and know we can provide very reasonable costs for coordinating the filings.

Further afield, the only remaining European states to have design legislation are Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. In these countries designs are more expensive due to higher official fees, agent charges and more vigorous examinations resulting in increased chances of objections. However, as the rest of the continent can be protected so inexpensively there can be room left in budgets to pursue registration in these three emerging markets that form a Customs Union.