The central European Trade Marks office ('OHIM') have announced that as from 24 November 2014, trade mark applicants will be able to 'fast-track' European Community Trade Mark applications.
A Community Trade Mark (CTM) allows trade mark owners a unitary registration system whereby a single registration affords the trade mark owner registered trade mark rights in all EU member states. At present, a CTM application can be finalised in six months, whilst OHIM"s proposal is to decrease this processing time even further.
Whilst there is no additional cost for following this expedited procedure, the application must comply with certain requirements. Importantly, the specification of goods and services must be drafted using OHIM's accepted classification terms. OHIM further requires the application fee to be paid immediately, as opposed to the current practise of paying the filing fee one month after submitting an application.
Applicants may specifically request to fast-track applications, but applications that meet this criteria will automatically receive preferential processing.
Although improvements such as these are always positive, trade mark applicants may wish to exercise caution in fast-tracking their applications.
For the moment, it seems that the process is only slightly expedited and fast-tracked applications may revert to ordinary processes if any deficiency on the application is cited during examination. Furthermore, applicants may not wish to use OHIM's standard classification terms – especially if the mark is filed internationally with consistent wording, or the applicant wishes to claim priority from a foreign application that does not use OHIM's suggested terms. Applicants of marks containing elements that may be descriptive in a major European language may also prefer the current system of filing, whereby the mark is examined before the filing is due and can therefore be withdrawn at no cost if the mark does not pass examination.
By Christine Strutt, Trademark Attorney
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