29 January 2016

New EU trademark regulations - some practicalities

23 March 2016 will see some fundamental changes to trademarks in the European Union.

Gone will be Community Trade Marks to be replaced with European Union trade marks.

The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) will become the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The new names are clearer but what else may change that trademark owners and representatives should note? Scroll down to the bottom if you don't have time to read all this.

New fee structure

Official fees will change. It's generally good news.

The initial filing fee will be reduced by €50 to €850. However, rather than getting "three classes for the price of one" as with the current fees, the new initial filing fee covers one class only. Trademark cluttering is considered a concern in the EU and this is a step towards discouraging it.

If you need to cover two classes then the additional class fee for the second class is €50 so for such applications there will be no fee differences under the new and old systems.

For the third class upwards, the fee will be €150 per class. It is for these multi-class applications where it will get more expensive.

If you do have a three class or more application to file then you may want to consider filing it before 23 March.

Conversely, if you have a one class application, you could consider holding off filing until 23 March or after. It is not normally recommended to delay filings and the official fee saving is fairly small but could be taken advantage of if you have a priority filing.

Renewal fees will come down significantly with the basic fee dropping from €1350 to €850. The Office will apply the fee due at the time of renewal though to avoid "tactical" timing of renewals. If you've already paid future renewals using the old fees, don't worry, you'll be reimbursed. If you've done these renewals through a third party then you may need to 'nudge' them so money returned to them can make its way to you!

There will be some small fee decreases for the likes of oppositions and revocations in due course too. N.B. Application and renewal fees presume filings are made online.

Misleading invoices

The Office does not send invoices out . However, their name change may see an upsurge in activity from scammers. A cursory check of the UK Company Registers does not show any newly incorporated companies containing "EU Intellectual Property", but such entities may be being set up in other countries.

It is important that trademark owners and representatives remain vigilant.

In terms of payments to the Office, we can anticipate a need to update the beneficiary name details for the Office for when payments are made to them by bank transfer for payment of fees or to top up current accounts.

New website

We can imagine that there will be a new website address - and euipo.europa.eu currently redirects to the current OHIM website at oami.europa.eu.

I imagine a redirection in the other direction will be put in place on or after 23 March, but users may wish to update their favourites accordingly.

Many will recall the problems faced in late 2013 and early 2014 with the Office's revamped website. Let's hope these are not faced again or you may see IP practitioners take to social media in less than jovial moods.

Speaking of which, watch out in case the Office adopts new social media handles.

If the website does go down for whatever reason then TMview should remain available for trademark searches. Be wary though that if there are problems with the Office's website that TMview may not be able to access the EU database and search results may be missing EU applications or registrations.

Old specifications for class headings

The IP TRANSLATOR case changed a previous interpretation at the Office that registrations for class headings covered the entire class and specifications were not to be interpreted literally.

Trademark owners of registrations filed before 22 June 2012 that covered class headings (and therefore thought they were getting entire class protection) can now file Declarations stating the protection they require.
  • The deadline is 24 September 2016
  • The goods and/or services, other than those clearly covered by the literal meaning of a class heading, must be indicated in a "clear, precise and specific manner"
  • Such goods and/or services indicated must have been in the same International Class in force at the time of the application and contained in the alphabetical list for that class
If the deadline is not acted upon then any specifications for class headings will be interpreted literally (the means what it says approach).

EEA representation

Trademark owners and representatives from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, which together with the EU member states make up the European Economic Area, will be able to act directly before the Office.

Applicants from these three nations would have often covered the EU through an International Registration but may now choose to file directly.

International Registrations

A practical disadvantage to designating the EU in an International Registration was the time it took to obtain protection as there is a more long-winded publication process.

This will now be shortened by five months, but if you take into account processing times at the Office of origin and WIPO, it is still quicker to file directly, even more so if your application can fulfil the Fast Track conditions.

At this time, there has been no word of a change in Individual fees for designating the European Union in an International Registration. I imagine it's only a matter of time before they are aligned with the new regular official fees.

There will be further changes in October 2017, but the key changes you may wish to look into now or very shortly are:

1. Update records and database with the new name e.g. change Community Trade Mark to European Union trade mark.
2. Update schedules of charges to show any new official fees and any pre-populated template documents containing the current fees.
3. If you have any three classes or more applications to file then get them on file soon, if possible.
4. For any one class applications, particularly where you have the security of a priority claim, you could hold off filing until after 23 March.
5. Be as alert as ever to misleading invoices.
6. Get ready to update beneficiary name details for making bank transfers to the Office.
7. Bookmark a new website address.
8. Review pre-22 June 2012 registrations for any that contain class headings and begin preparations to clarify the protection.
9. Docket the deadline of 24 September 2016 for such cases.

No comments:

Post a Comment