The European Parliament has recently approved a package of reforms with the proud boast that registering trade marks will become cheaper, quicker and more reliable.
Among the changes to the current system of Community trade marks (due to come into effect later this year) are the following:
- Reductions in registration and renewal fees leading to potential savings of up to 37% for businesses
- Fees to be charged per class of goods/services protected by the trade mark (at present the minimum fee covers up to 3 classes)
- Making it easier to register new types of trade mark, such as sound
- The introduction of EU certification marks
- New rules to prevent goods coming into the EU with infringing trade marks even where those goods are not being released for circulation
- Community trade marks will be renamed "European Union trade marks" and the office responsible for administering the marks, currently known as OHIM, will be renamed the "European Union Intellectual Property Office" (EUIPO)
- Closer co-operation between national trade mark offices and the EUIPO and the establishment of more efficient administrative procedures
These changes will be harmonised in due course with the national trade mark systems of each Member State (which will continue to exist in parallel with the EU-wide system), including here in the UK.
The Government has broadly welcomed the reforms, which they say will "deliver real benefits for trade mark users".
We will have to see how the reforms pan out in practice, but lower fees are certainly to be welcomed and are well overdue given the budget surplus the EU office has been running for some time.
With that in mind, maybe another New Year resolution to consider is to finally get around to registering those trade marks.