In late April, the keenly awaited progress towards a new EU trademark regime was announced as the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU came to an agreement at an informal trilogue about the proposals for the reform of EU trade mark law. The reforms, likely to recreate the Trade Marks Directive (2008/95/EC), and amend both the Community Trade Mark (CTM) Regulation (207/2009/EC) and the Community Trade Mark Fees Regulation (2869/95/EC), have been considered for a while, and it is hoped the final result will be forthcoming.

The idea behind the reforms is to promote economic growth by allowing businesses to benefit from greater protection of counterfeit goods and to encourage innovation by clarifying legal requirements. Trade mark holders should also be able to obtain Community-wide trade mark protection at a better cost because of fee reductions, and the reforms hope to increase trademark proprietors’ cross-border activities by introducing harmonised procedures across national trademark offices.

Current and prospective trade mark holders should welcome this modernisation of trade mark law across Europe, but some scepticism still exists. Problems have been forecast for national trade mark registries because of the expected shift from national trade mark registries to greater dependence on Community trade marks. Organisations that simply want their trade mark registered in a certain country or that may be precluded from having a mark registered on a Community basis – for instance, because the mark may relate to a geographic origination – could face higher national costs as the national registries are forced to raise costs as a result of the reduced demand.

Formal adoption of these reforms are yet to be made as the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers must vote through the changes, and then bring the contemplated reforms into practice. No date has been set yet for a vote on the Directive, but those who depend on trade marks should ensure they follow proceedings carefully and assess the impact the reforms are likely to have on their organisation before their implementation.