The European Union Intellectual Property Office has a lot on its plate, especially as a new batch of trademark reforms are set to come into force later this year, as Luis Berenguer, Member of the Executive Director’s Cabinet and Spokesperson of the Office, tells Sarah Morgan.
From preparing for EU trademark reforms to changing the Office’s name, it’s been a busy few years for the European Union Intellectual Property (EUIPO), and it’s not over yet.
In March 2016, the office changed its name from the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, upon the entry into force of Regulation (EU) 2015/2424.
The same day, the name of the trademark it administers also changed, to the European Union trademark (EUTM).
“Our new name is translated into the 23 EU languages in which we operate, but the acronym remains uniform—in every EU language it is EUIPO,” explains Luis Berenguer, Member of the Executive Director’s Cabinet.
The single acronym helps the Office protect its users against fraud, by reducing the number of permutations and combinations of its name that fraudsters can appropriate, he adds.
The next big event on the EUIPO calendar takes place on October 1, 2017, when more trademark changes will enter into force.
EU certification trademarks will be introduced and the requirement of graphical representation will be eliminated, among other changes.
EUIPO’s current work is a continuation of efforts that have been underway at the Office for nearly four years. The first wave of changes saw updates to the EUIPO’s IT tools and website to fully reflect the new terminology and fee structure, while the signs around the office’s home in Alicante, Spain, were changed to reflect the new name and logo.
This time around there’s no name or terminology change but procedures before the office will be modernized, including removing obsolete methods of communication such as hand deliveries.
“The second phase of the implementation of Regulation 2015/2424 and the new secondary legislation is being implemented by the Office in a manner that ensures that the benefits for users take effect as soon as practicable,” says Mr. Berenguer.
Under the provisions of the amended Regulation, since March 23, 2016, cooperation has been a core task of the Office and part of its Strategic Plan 2020.
The EUIPO will continue to work with national and regional IP offices in the European Union on cooperation and convergence projects through the renamed European Union Intellectual Property Network (formerly known as the European Trade Mark and Design Network).
Another core part of the Office’s work is international cooperation.
Over the lifetime of the Strategic Plan, the EUIPO will continue its work as the implementing agency for EU-funded projects at the request of the European Commission, says Mr. Berenguer.
Doing the Research
Studies into the cost of IP infringement and the perception of IP are also within the EUIPO’s remit.
In 2012, the Office was entrusted with overseeing the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights.
One of the Observatory’s objectives is to provide evidence-based contributions and data to enable EU policy makers to shape effective IP enforcement policies and to support innovation and creativity.
Since 2015, the Office has carried out a series of studies looking at the impact of counterfeiting and piracy in a range of economic sectors.
“This series of studies doesn’t measure infringement as such—it’s very important to point that out from the start,” says Mr. Berenguer.
“It measures the scale of the two major economic impacts of counterfeiting or piracy, i.e., the direct and indirect costs to industry, and the costs to governments and to society.”
So far, the Observatory has released 11 studies across sectors such as cosmetics and personal care, pesticides, smartphones, and recorded music.
“What all these sectors have in common is that they are known or are thought to be subject to counterfeiting (or piracy, in the case of recorded music),” explains Mr. Berenguer.
Nearly €54 billion (US $58.8 billion) is lost each year in direct sales alone across the 11 sectors assessed, according to the study.
For example, in supply sectors, when you add in indirect sales, the number hikes up by €36 billion (US $40.4 billion).
Then there are lost jobs—every sector studied was affected by this problem, with the reports estimating that half a million jobs are directly lost as a result of counterfeiting in these sectors. An additional €15 billion (US $16.3 billion) was lost in government revenues.
It’s important to make clear that a large proportion of the businesses observed are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Mr. Berenguer says.
He adds: “We already know that SMEs are the backbone of the EU economy: 99 percent of all EU businesses are SMEs.”
The Importance of IP
Support for IP remains high across the European Union, according to the EUIPO’s study into the perception of IP in which 26,500 people aged 15 and over throughout the European Union’s 28 member states were questioned.
“Nearly everyone questioned (97 percent) agreed that it was important for inventors, creatives and performing artists to be able to protect their rights and be paid for their work,” says Mr. Berenguer, adding that the results of the study broadly confirmed the results of a 2013 study.
Nothing can justify the purchase of counterfeit goods, said 70 percent of respondents, while 78 percent said they believed buying counterfeits had a negative effect on businesses and jobs.
On the other hand, young people have a higher tolerance for buying counterfeit goods than the older generation, especially when the goods are purchased online.
One in ten of all respondents said they had knowingly accessed content from unauthorized sources, but that figure rises to 27 percent among 15 to 24-year-olds.
“The IP perception studies are the first EU-wide assessment of citizen perception and the relevant drivers of consumer behaviors,” explains Mr. Berenguer.
He adds: “They help us understand not just how people perceive IP, but to see how their perceptions change depending on how old they are, for example, or where they live. They are an extremely valuable pillar of our research and analysis work.”
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