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European Commissioner for Internal Market and
Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) exhibition opening
Mr Vidal-Quadras, Mr de Boer, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
First of all, let me congratulate both the European Parliament and the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM), for organising this exhibition to raise awareness about the activities of the OHIM. As you know, OHIM manages the Community Trade Mark and the Community Design registration systems – both of which are hugely successful. It is an efficient, high quality service providing hundreds of thousands of companies from all over the world with EU-wide protection for their trade marks and designs.
Since the Alicante Office began processing trade mark applications in 1996, more than 480,000 trade marks have been registered. And since the registration of Community designs began in 2003, over 350,000 designs have been dealt with. And most importantly, the overall satisfaction of those who use the OHIM is high.
But success often raises its own challenges. And I would like to address some of the challenges which lie ahead for the OHIM. The steady growth in demand for Community trade marks has generated an impressive financial surplus due to increasing revenues from the Community trade mark fees. In the "Small Business Act" we promised to make the Community trade mark system more accessible for Small and Medium sized Enterprises by cutting the level of fees. To achieve this, we are preparing a substantial reduction in the Community trade mark fees. Last year, the Council invited the Commission to accompany the proposal for fee reduction with a comprehensive impact assessment. In that assessment, concerns raised by some Member States who are worried about the impact of a reduction of the OHIM fees on their national trade mark systems, will be addressed.
Last May, I announced in the Competitiveness Council that I will present the proposals for fee reductions before the end of this year. And I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the details. I intend to bring the combined cost of the application and registration fees down to around € 1,000. This will result in making access to trade mark protection around 40% cheaper than it is today. It will mean considerable savings for European companies - in particular SMEs. The fee structure itself will be simplified, significantly reducing red tape and the administrative burden in the handling of trade mark fees, to the benefit of both users and the OHIM.
In relation to the functioning of the OHIM itself, the Commission supports the ambition that it should be the benchmark amongst industrial property offices. And targets for further improvement in the work of the Office are high. The Work Programme for 2009 shows serious commitment in terms of performance and customers' service. In particular, it will step up efforts to reduce the backlog of oppositions – where third parties oppose the granting of a trade mark or the registrations of a design. This will address one of the main concerns of the users.
I also welcome the efforts of the Office to become a fully fledged "E-organisation". Electronic services reduce bureaucracy and help the development of more efficient working methods. Users will be able to interact more and more with the OHIM through the internet using the most advanced tools - whether in submitting their applications, making their payments or carrying out searches online.
The Community trade mark system has been operational for more than a decade now. We know that while many things are going extremely well, there is still room for improvement and for that reason, it is essential to collect the views of all stakeholders.
The Commission is currently conducting a comprehensive evaluation. This evaluation will provide for an in-depth assessment of the functioning of the EU and national trade mark systems and their co-existence. It aims to elaborate on potential improvements which could form the basis of a future review of the Community trade mark system. This is central to our recent communication on an "Industrial Property Rights Strategy for Europe".
We have already launched a consultation in the context of the European Business Test Panel to get the opinion of our companies about the trade mark systems in Europe. We also intend to conduct a comprehensive study covering issues such as the added value trade marks can bring to companies, the awareness of potential users, the costs of a trade mark, the relationship between the OHIM and the national offices, the efficiency of the systems and the protection of trade marks. We intend to begin intensive dialogues on all these subjects with the stakeholders – Member States, trade mark attorneys and, of course, SMEs and other companies with an interest in strong and effective trade mark protection.
My next point relates to the partnership between the OHIM and the offices of the Member States. This is important for the efficient performance of the Community and national trade mark systems. We consider that developing cooperation between national offices and the OHIM – on, for example, training, education, IT tools and awareness programmes - is in the interest of all parties. It will lead to further improvements in the efficiency of our intellectual property system. National intellectual property offices could – and should - also step up their efforts in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy together with the Community institutions and other stakeholders.
Finally, the interest of MEPs in industrial property matters is vital. It is our shared responsibility to constantly work on improving Europe's competitiveness. To protect our innovations and remain competitive in the global knowledge-based economy, strong industrial property rights are essential. And in the difficult economic times we face, this is now more crucial than ever.
Thank you very much.