Out-Law News 1 min. read

Plans for EU trade mark reforms move forward despite UK opposition

Planned reforms to EU trade mark laws have been backed by the EU's Council of Ministers despite opposition from the UK government.

The Council of Ministers said the reforms are "aimed at making trade mark registration systems throughout the European Union more accessible and efficient for businesses in terms of lower costs and complexity, increased speed, greater predictability and legal certainty".

A new directive designed to "approximate" the different national trade mark laws (70-page / 538KB PDF), and a new regulation that updates existing Community trade marks rules (202-page / 1.19MB PDF) make up the reform package backed by the Council.

MEPs are expected to give their backing to the reforms before the end of the year after which the new rules will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and come into force, it said.

However, in a statement the UK government said (3-page / 180KB PDF) it was opposed to the plans due to the fact that the new regime would see "future surpluses accumulated from trade mark and design fees" added to "the general EU budget".

"Research has suggested that IP rich industries contribute 39% of the EU’s GDP, with trade marks a significant part of this," the UK government said. "We must nurture and protect this contribution to retain our competitiveness: therefore we should not divert money which came from IP to other uses. It should stay in the system, for example supporting innovation or enforcement."

A significant part of the reforms is the move to a new 'one-class-per-fee' system, meaning a separate application and renewal charge will apply for each class of goods that brand owners wish to obtain Community trade mark protection for.

Trade mark law specialist Iain Connor of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said earlier this year that whilst many businesses would welcome reforms that will reduce the cost of registering and renewing Community trade marks, there could be "unintended consequences" for national trade mark registries and companies looking to protect their brands on a national basis only.

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