Trademarks high on the agenda at Intellectual Property Forum 2003

European Union

Simpson's-in-the-Strand, a very British institution once frequented by the likes of William Gladstone, Benjamin Disraeli and Charles Dickens, hosted the Intellectual Property Forum 2003 in London this week. The forum was presented by Managing Intellectual Property Magazine and Euromoney Seminars. A panel of over 20 high-calibre speakers discussed recent European developments in intellectual property at the two-day forum, which was followed by a day of practical workshops.

Day two focused specifically on trademarks and was chaired by Jane Collins who is the global head of trademarks at Syngenta AG and vice chairman of the MARQUES Council. She emphasized that trademark law in Europe is undergoing a number of decisive changes and the speakers' presentations added weight to this claim.

Alexander von Mühlendahl, the vice president for legal affairs at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), discussed high-profile European Court of Justice cases, both determined and pending, that will have important consequences for trademark practitioners and brand owners, particularly cases involving the registration of shapes and colours.

Another area of discussion focused on the introduction of Community designs that will provide a new type of protection for rights owners. Trademark right protection problems relating to the expansion of the European Union were also highlighted by Stephen Whybrow - a partner at Cameron McKenna. He noted that around 4% of all counterfeit goods emanate from the Czech Republic, which will join the European Union in 2004. Provisions preventing counterfeit goods from entering the European Union are fairly strong but there is little protection available for mark owners where counterfeit goods are produced and sold within the European Union. This, he suggested, is a chink in the European Union's anti-counterfeiting armour that needs urgent attention.

Lucy Nichols, global director of intellectual property rights and brand protection for Nokia Corporation, and Jenny Settergen, professional services manager for Register.com, were involved in an interesting discussion involving domain names and brand protection strategies. Nichols set out the brand owner's perspective and was fairly critical of the performance of various domain name registrars. She said that not enough was being done to prevent the unauthorized registration of well-known marks as domain names. Settergen put forward the registrar's view and accepted that there have been some problems. However, she expects the registrars' performance to improve as they and the brand owners gain more experience and registration procedures become more streamlined.

John Batho, World Trademark Law Report, London

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