FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL SERVICE
|Since 1996, it has been possible to
register Community trademarks in the European Union. The Community trademark
constitutes an important step towards the completion of the internal market
in the field of protection of industrial property. Council Regulation
207/2009 sets out rules for a single,
unitary registration system covering the whole Community territory. The Community
trademark gives its holder the right to prohibit third parties from using identical or
similar signs as those covered by the trademark without their consent throughout the
European Union and is valid for a period of 10 years.
Before the introduction of the Community trademark, two different systems were in place for registering trademarks in countries of the European Union. First, companies had the option of applying for an international trademark that applies in the countries which have signed the Treaty of Madrid. However, the U.S. did not sign this convention and only the following nine EU countries signed it: Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Portugal. The second option was to apply for national trademarks in the individual countries of the EU. However, the only means for protection of a trademark for the whole Community territory was to file twelve applications for the registration of the mark at the national trademark offices of the respective member states plus an application at the common trade markoffice of the three Benelux countries, dealing with a total of thirteen different trademark registration systems in eleven different languages.
With the introduction of Community trademarks, a third system was added and Community, national and international trademarks co-exist within the member countries of the European Union. Because the Community trademark is by far the easiest way to register a trademark community wide, companies intending to cover the entire EU market should consider applying for a Community trademark. However, each company should compare costs of the three different trademarks options for its market. Also, a national trademark may be registered as a Community trade mark irrespective of its age, thereby securing investments made prior to the creation of the Community trademark.
In practice, a Community trademark must meet two conditions: it must be a sign which can be represented in graphic form, and it must make it possible to distinguish goods and services from those of another company. Signs generally accepted as a trademark include:
words, invented or belonging to a known language which are not used in that language as a generic term for the goods or services to which the trademark applies; family and first names; signatures; letters and/or numbers; acronyms, combinations of letters and numbers, numbers and signs, or logos; slogans; designs, figures and pictographs; portraits of people; collections of words or graphic elements and complex signs associating verbal and graphic signs e.g. labels; three-dimensional trademarks such as shapes of goods or their packaging; colors or combinations of colors; and/or sound marks, in particular musical phrases.
An application for a Community trademark is filed either directly at the Harmonization Office or at a national industrial property office in a member state of the European Union. The basic application fee is 975 Ecus and covers up to three (3) goods and services with an additional cost of 200 Ecus for each additional class. Businesses from countries which are not members of the European Union (those with neither domicile, seat, nor real and effective establishment in a member state of the European Union) must be represented by a professional representative or a legal practitioner. Only those lawyers and professional advisers that are on the Offices approved list are entitled to act as representatives. Details on the application form are available from the home page of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market.
The applicant must select the language of the application proceedings which may be any of the eleven languages of the European Community (Spanish, Danish, German, Greek, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish and Swedish). The applicant must also select a second language, which must be one of the five languages of the Office (Spanish, German, English, French, Italian) and which must be different from the first language. The second language will be used by the Office in communicating with the applicant or his representative when the first language is not on of the five languages of the Office. The second language is also one of the languages available for opposition or cancellation proceedings.
On completion of the registration procedure, the trademark is registered in the Register of Community trademarks.
For more information on these and related issues, the OHIM can be reached at:
Office for Harmonization
in the Internal Market