On 24th August 2021, the number of European Union (EU) trade mark registrations hit 2,000,000.
The Community Trade Mark Register was opened on 01st April 1996, with the very first Community Trade Mark Registration being filed by the Association Internationale pour la Protection de la Propriete Industrielle for the word mark AIPPI. A registration which has been renewed over the years and is still alive today.
It took 18 years to reach 1,000,000 trade mark registrations but only 7 more years to double that number reflecting the huge changes which have happened in our world since the foundation of this trade mark register. An expanded marketplace resulting from globalisation and fuelled by the growth of the Internet and improvements in technology in the fields of transportation and communication has led to an increasing acknowledgment of the importance of intellectual property rights.
The Community Trade Mark Registration, now the European Union Trade Mark Registration, was administered by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante, now the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), and originally covered just 15 countries. As the European Community, now the EU, enlarged so too did the countries which were covered by the unitary right.
Of course, when the United Kingdom (UK) became the first country to leave the EU on 31st December 2021 it was no longer covered by this unitary right. To safe-guard these important rights in the United Kingdom all live EU trade mark registrations were cloned onto the UK Register.
Today a European Union Trade Mark Registration covers 27 countries, namely Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. With negotiations ongoing in a number of other European countries, e.g., North Macedonia, Serbia, Albania and Montenegro, the EU is likely to be enlarged once more in the incoming decade increasing the territories which will be covered by an EU registration.
It is easy to see why the protection of trade marks by the filing of an EU Trade Mark application has increased in popularity over the years. Filing an application for a registered right which covers 27 countries in one fell swoop, and at a fraction of the cost of filing national applications in those same countries, makes complete sense when operating in a rapidly expanding marketplace.
Registered trade mark rights are documented, making them cheaper and easier to enforce than unregistered trade mark rights, which are not recognised in all countries. In an increasingly litigious world having the tools to safeguard the reputation which you have built up in those signs which identify your goods and service is essential.
If you have plans to operate in, or sell into, a substantial part of the EU within a five-year period then filing an EU trade mark application to protect your trade mark is of vital importance since such a registration protects not just your current but also your future marketplace.
Of course, national trade mark registrations were not replaced by the EU Trade Mark Registration and applications can still be filed in the individual member states of the EU and elsewhere.
In Ireland, you’re spoilt for choice. If you plan to operate in Ireland and other member states, filing an EU trade mark application would be of benefit to you. On the other hand, if you don’t plan to operate outside of Ireland, then a national application may be more advisable.
If you operate in the UK, it is now crucial to secure a national UK trade mark application to protect those signs which identify your goods and services. If you also operate in the EU, then filing a separate EU Trade Mark application would also be advantageous.