Businesses are about to get a big break on the costs of filing for an EU trademark.
In a measure of the Union’s strong growth prior to the financial crisis, the demand for EU trademark rights has shot up in recent years, creating an unexpected budget surplus.
Despite an initial cut in fees for trademark registration in 2005, the EU's trademark office now has a cash reserve of more than €300m - not allowed under its non-profit status. After lengthy discussions, EU countries have agreed to slash fees once again – this time by 40%.
Set up in 1996, the trademark office is funded entirely through fees paid by the businesses that use it. To date, the EU has registered more than 500 000 trademarks for businesses all over the world, prohibiting other companies from using the same names, symbols and mottos.
Trademarks are valuable to businesses because they set a company and its products apart from others. They are also helpful to consumers, showing the merchandise is genuine - not an inferior imitation.
Currently companies pay two separate fees for trademark protection – one for application and another for registration. Starting in May, these will be replaced by a single fee to save time.
What’s more, the total cost will drop to €1 050 from €1 750 for a paper application. Companies that apply online will pay even less – €900 instead of €1 600. This is for a trademark issued directly by the EU. For EU validation of an international trademark, the fee will fall to €870 from €1 450.
Internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy says the cuts will save businesses €60m a year and boost entrepreneurship, key to reviving the economy. The lower fees will be especially welcome to smaller companies, which often find the trademark process a burden.
On a related issue, the EU is launching a forum to fight the sale of fake goods, illegal downloading and other infringements of intellectual property rights. The new “observatory” will bring together experts from the public and private spheres to evaluate the problem and develop solutions. The global trade of fake goods is a €150bn business, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.