By Adam Smith
April 15 2011
Just how much the Italian government wants a modern, functioning trademark system will soon be clear. Its IP office is in the process of implementing some major changes, including the introduction of an oppositions procedure, but may require additional budget from government for it to work properly.
Thanks to the recently published Max Planck Institute study into the EU trademark system, we now know that the Italian office is funded by government, not fees paid by IP owners. So will the government stump up the cash needed for an oppositions system that the trademark community hopes will improve the register?
According to Julia Holden, a solicitor at Trevisan & Cuonzo Avvocati, oppositions “should assist in substantially reducing the cost of resolving trademark disputes which are currently handled by the Italian courts”. She added that it should reduce clutter too. “It should assist in forcing trademark owners to focus on appropriate filings for more specific activities rather than simply filing the entire class heading in the knowledge that this may result in unnecessary oppositions in areas in which they are unlikely to be active in the future.”
So an oppositions procedure should smooth aspects of the trademark system. It will even make it cheaper for mark owners. However, the patent side of the IP office is already busy cooperating with the European Patent Office to implement a new patent examination procedure. “Too many new tasks may undermine [office] efficiency,” comments Cesare Galli, senior partner at IP Law Galli, “unless a consistent number of new well-trained people are taken on.”
Staffing indeed may be the greatest challenge the office faces in introducing oppositions. It has been reported that of the 29 examiners expected to handle oppositions, only 18 passed recent exams. Meanwhile, the Italian trademark community is expecting the oppositions procedure to come into effect on 1 May, but it is widely expected that the office will not be ready in time. The office itself is apparent taking no bets that the procedure will begin on 1 May; its website carries no announcement of the plan.
As is so often the case with offices that are financially dependent on their governments, smooth functioning may simply come down just how much financial support they receive. Given the amount of cash the government is set to save in court costs, one could expect it to spend the money needed to establish a cheaper, leaner opposition procedure at the national office.
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