By Trevor Little
October 22 2010
Three weeks into his new role, OHIM president António Campinos has given the first insight into his vision for the agency. While an emphasis on quality and engagement with all stakeholders were the key themes, the most interesting contrast with his predecessor came when discussing OHIM’s potential role in enforcement activities.
Addressing members of German brand federation Markenverband, Campinos acknowledged that tackling the backlog was of importance, alongside ensuring that the agency’s “registrations are not linked with national markets - for that would undermine the reality of a common market.” However, perhaps reflecting his experience while president of Portugal’s National Institute of Industrial Property, he also identified a need for “fruitful cooperation with the national intellectual property offices in the EU”, with the Cooperation Fund viewed as “an unprecedented opportunity to modernise and bring closer together, in a single step, the European Union’s IP offices”.
This sentiment of proactive engagement with national offices contrasts with the approach taken by his predecessor, Wubbo de Boer, who sided with users and questioned the justification of sharing OHIM funds with national offices.
However, Campinos states that OHIM needs to work harder at engaging with all stakeholders, including member states, the Commission and users. He adds that these efforts will ultimately be to the benefit of users: “Cooperation must ultimately benefit users: and as users have repeatedly said, they wish us to concentrate on online individual and common searchable databases, on online filing, opposition, cancellation, and registration and payment systems and on interoperable, user-friendly systems. We will do so, and in doing it we will strengthen the European systems of trademarks and designs, and at the same time we will cement trust between us.”
While the presidency of de Boer saw the agency take great strides to improve efficiency, Campinos has signalled that his focus will be on quality. He noted: “While in recent years, the office has been able to improve its performance considerably, as with any other success story, there is always room for further improvement and adjustments… We may think we are doing a good job, but there is a need for more objective, international standards and benchmarking. The challenge of quality emerges as a consequence of OHIM’s very nature, as a European public service. To transform OHIM into a true organisation of excellence, complying with modern and recognised standards and renowned as such, by its staff, by national offices, by international organisations and - most of all - by its users, should constitute our first priority.”
Adopting quality and engagement with stakeholders as key themes may not grab headlines but his final comments, on the enforcement role OHIM could play, will.
de Boer had been vocally sceptical about proposals for OHIM to take on an anti-counterfeiting enforcement role, with users also questioning how a dual function of registration and enforcement would work. Campinos, however, has shown a desire to examine the enforcement issue in more detail, asking: “What point is there having a reactive and efficient Community trademark (CTM) and design registration system, if at the enforcement stage, each country does its own thing? CTMs and designs are very successful, and we have built up a substantial surplus. We have an obligation, and potentially the resources, to do some things to make the whole system work better, and that’s what we will be looking into. At the same time, we must also look closely at the added value that we can bring to initiatives such as the Commission’s Observatory on Counterfeiting. Over the coming years we have to roll out an ambitious programme of cooperation which should, among other things, include the fight against counterfeiting as recommended by the European Commission in the recent communication on the enforcement of IP rights in the internal market.”
It is too early to predict what the Campinos years will bring but his first speech provides a useful insight into both his priorities and the way he will go about implementing his vision for the agency.
Next week WTR will analyse industry reaction to the speech.
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