For most companies EU trademark is the best way to get their brand protected within EU. Here’s 5 practical things to know about EU trademarks.
1. They’re great, but not without downsides
The obvious advantage of an EU trademark is that with one registration it is possible to cover 28 countries and a market of half a billion consumers. The downside is that in order to get an EU trademark, there cannot be any registration obstacles in any of the countries. A registration obstacle in just one tiny EU country like Cyprus or Latvia can prevent EU registration altogether. So EU trademark covers either everything or nothing, it cannot be accepted partially for only some member states (this is called “unitary character” in legal jargon).
2. They cost the same or less than a cup of coffee
Let’s say a cup of coffee costs 3 Euro. The basic government fee for EU trademark is 850 EUR, but it covers 10 years and 28 countries. This comes down to 3,03 EUR per country per year. Of course, most people have more than one cup of coffee per year. If you have one cup every day, the cost of that one cup over 10 years is 10950 EUR. The cost of EU trademark for ten years is only 850 EUR, so much less than 10% of the cost of daily cup of coffee.
3. They are incredibly fast to get
EU trademark office has something called “fast track” procedure which allows the application to be examined very fast, usually in less than a week. There are some simple requirements to get to fast track, but the good news is that it doesn’t cost any extra. You can read more about this super fast trademark examination here.
4. There is no automatic refusal because of prior trademarks
Unlike in the US, China, Japan, South Korea and in most other countries, the EU trademark office is not concerned about prior registered trademarks. If you apply for a trademark in the US or China, and somebody has already registered a similar name, your application will be refused. Not in the EU, at least not automatically. If the applied trademark is “distinctive” (i.e. does not describe your goods and services, you can read more about that here), the EU trademark office will accept the application. After the application has been preliminarily accepted (“published”, in legal terms), other companies have three months to oppose it. If another company has a similar earlier EU trademark or national trademark in any of the EU member states, it can prevent the registration altogether. However, this does not happen automatically, it requires that the earlier trademark owner opposes the application within three months of its “publication”.
5. They can replace your old national registrations
If you have existing national trademarks in EU countries, it is possible “link” those old trademarks to your later EU trademark and let the old national trademarks lapse. The legal term for this mechanism is called “seniority”. If you have a UK trademark that was filed in 1983, with “seniority” it is possible to link that old UK trademark to your EU trademark and have your EU trademark’s starting period with respect to UK start from 1983. After that, you can simply let you UK trademark lapse, because it’s linked to your EU trademark. This is great because it allows significant cost savings since there is no longer the need to keep renewing old national trademarks every 10 years. Because there are several conditions that must be fulfilled to take advantage of seniority, it should not be used without proper legal advice.