The Community Trade Mark (‘CTM’) has been with us since 1996.At the time of its introduction, it was revolutionary, and for trade mark practitioners at the time meant a significant shift in their practice. Long gone was the need to discuss with clients in which of the EU countries they required protection, taking them through potentially expensive and different procedures in each country, and often missing out on some relevant countries for reasons of cost. In came the ability to file a single trade mark application that would cover, at the time, all fifteen member countries of the European Community, eventually extending to the current twenty-eight member countries. The Community Trade Mark was born, with the phrase ‘CTM’ becoming normal parlance in trade mark circles, along with the name of the governing office, Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, Trade Marks and Designs, lovingly phrased as ‘OHIM’.
But all good things need to be refreshed to ensure that they keep up with the times, and so the process of reviewing the current CTM system began in 2009 with a survey and report by the Max Planck Institute. And so now, some twenty years on from the original system, some changes to the system are about to be introduced, the first ones in early 2016.
During the course of the Max Planck study a number of key interest groups from around the EU were asked their views on the current system, with ‘overcrowding’ of the Register being a popular concern from the UK. Through the legislative procedure, issues such as these, along with the outcomes of decisions from the CJEU, have led to some changes. Admittedly some of these are highly technical in nature, and will only affect a small number of cases in very specific circumstances. Others have the potential to be of greater relevance as the concept of ‘brand’, and what elements of ‘brand’ and ‘get-up’ can be protected, becomes more abstract and distant from the more traditional names and logos of trade marks past. And there are one or two changes which are potentially headline grabbing, but in practice will have little impact other than a change in terminology.
Perhaps the first issue to cover is when these changes will come into force. The new Directive and Regulation were published on 24 December 2015 and will come into force ninety days after
publication on 23 March 2016.
So what are they key changes?Business Law Review