The Community Trade Mark system is about to enter a new chapter in its relatively short but successful history, following an agreement reached by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council on a European trade mark reform package, which will revamp its 1989 Directive and 1994 Regulations.

The agreement still has to be confirmed by the European Parliament and the Council and, after adoption, EU member states will have three years to incorporate the new Directive into national law. Many of the amendments to the Regulation will, however, come into effect as soon as 90 days after publication in the EU Official Journal.

One of the interesting changes include two name changes: The Community Trade Mark will, in future, be known as the European Union Trade Mark, while the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) will be known as the European Union Intellectual Property Office.

Other changes include the removal of the requirement that a trade mark should be capable of graphic representation, thereby clearing the way for trade marks such as sound trade marks to be registered.  A trade mark should, however, still be represented in a way that enables "clear and precise" determination of the subject matter.

A change in the fee structure is also to be welcomed. A separate fee will be payable for each additional class applied for beyond the first, instead of the all-inclusive 3 class fee currently applicable. This will make applications for one or two classes more affordable.

Further changes include the enhancement of the current protection of geographical indications and traditional terms, and measures against counterfeit goods in transit through the European Union. Harmonised registration and other procedures across the EU in all national trade mark offices are also on the cards.

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