By Jack Ellis
May 07 2012
WTR previously reported on OHIM’s plans to make IP protection more accessible to business. At this year’s INTA conference some of the first fruits of those efforts are on display and, for the first time, OHIM is exhibiting at INTA as part of the European Trade Mark and Design Network, a collaboration between Alicante and national IP offices aimed at converging practice and the user experience across Europe.
The network’s stand in the exhibition hall has been bustling with conference attendees taking the opportunity to try out some of the new online tools that are being created with those aims in mind. “The concept behind the network is that users of IP systems should expect the same services wherever they go in Europe,” said Mark Kennedy, press officer at OHIM. “If a business wishes to file for trademark rights in two European countries, they would like their interface with the two issuing offices to be identical, to make that process as smooth and predictable as possible.”
The development of user-friendly IT tools that will be common to all EU national offices is one key aspect of OHIM’s five-year strategic plan. Around €50 million of Alicante’s famous surplus is being reinvested into a Cooperation Fund to develop these programmes, including classification tool EuroClass and database TMview which incorporates information from 19 offices including OHIM and WIPO. It is hoped that the USPTO will expand on its collaboration on EuroClass to provide its data to TMview as well.
Another prong of OHIM’s five-year plan is further convergence between national and supranational systems, though Kennedy stresses that this is about “joining-up rather than fusioning”. Efforts at harmonisation have been subject to debate in the past, with national offices perceived as being sceptical of the benefits and at worst fearful of being superseded by the community system. However, Kennedy explains that in hindsight it is clear that OHIM had not steamrollered the priority of national trademark rights since CTM was introduced: “We really do co-exist with national offices, and we believe that the national right is a vital right,” Kennedy told WTR. “OHIM is not trying to make everything the same, and an absolute fusing of Europe’s trademark regimes is not going to happen. Ultimately this strategic plan is all about improving things for the user, so that they have access to the proper services and have legal rights that are guarantees.”
The creation of the European Trade Mark and Design Network marks a new phase for the European Union trademark ecosystem, according to Kennedy: “We have always cooperated with national offices, but that cooperation is now more structured and more tangible.” If the strategic plan meets its goals, that can only be a good thing for trademark owners – and the joint presence of OHIM and national office representatives provides a positive indicator of the progress made to date.
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