Faced with an embarrassing mountain of accumulated registration fees it is not sure how to spend, the EU’s “OHIM” office that handles registration of Community Trade Marks has announced a steep cut in the cost of CTMs. Louise Ball reports this cool news for brand owners.
Who: The European trade marks and designs registration office, the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market ("OHIM")
When: May 2009
Where: Alicante, Spain
Law stated as at: 1 May 2009
From 1 May 2009, OHIM has reduced application fees for Community Trade Marks ("CTM") by 40% as follows:
- €1050 for a CTM applied for by fax or paper;
- €900 for an electronically filed CTM, and
- €870 for an application filed via the Madrid Protocol.
The additional fee of €850 previously charged at the end of the process, for the actual registration, has also been abolished.
This package of fee changes was approved by the European Commission's Fees Committee; indeed, Member States voted overwhelming in favour of the changes.
OHIM President Wubbo de Boer said that the objectives underlying the price cuts were to stimulate demand and to assist small and medium-sized companies ("SMEs") who wished to protect their brands in difficult economic conditions.
The Regulation implementing the changes is at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:109:0003:0005:EN:PDF.
Background to the changes
A marked downward trend in registrations had been observed by OHIM, prior to the implementation of these fee cuts. Figures for the first quarter of 2009 show that CTM designations fell by 22% compared with the same period the previous year.
With regard to annual applications, America, the second largest user of CTMs, showed a drop of 25% and the fall off in UK demand, normally the third largest user of CTMs, is greater than in other European economies. Take up in Spain has reduced by 19%, in France by 10% and in Italy by 8%. Only Germany is holding out against this prevailing malaise with a 6% rise in demand.
So clearly OHIM is looking to stimulate demand for its services. It is not as if it needs more cash since it is currently sitting on a surplus of over €250 million, yes, that's €250 million. This is not available for refunding to users, so no begging letters please.
Why this matters:
SMEs in particular need accessible and affordable protection for their intellectual property rights in order to market their goods successfully in the EU. Any reduction in costs for securing brand rights can only be good news for embattled firms given current trading conditions. In fact, some have criticised OHIM for taking so long to get round to this move, given the credit crunch has been raging and the fact that the cash pile has been sitting unused for a year or two at least.