In our articles, we discuss IP rights and we cover all sorts of related issues such as:

  • What IP rights exist;
  • How IP rights can be protected;
  • When IP rights are infringed;
  • What remedies are available for infringement; and
  • How IP rights can be transferred and licensed.

What we never write about is the actual offices where the IP rights are registered. However, thanks to a fascinating article that was published in Politico by Edith Hancock, How to snatch the EU's best office? Know your trademarks, we thought it would be interesting to provide some insight into the operations of one of the largest IP offices in the world, the European Union Intellectual Property Office ("EUIPO").


European Intellectual Property Office building in Alicante, Spain – Kristof Roomp

A dream employer

EUIPO has an enviable location in the south of Spain, in the town of Alicante, on the Costa Blanca.

The Politico article tells us that EUIPO has "an executive office the size of an average one-person Brussels apartment, with floor-to-ceiling views of the Mediterranean Sea and a balcony to really take them in".

However, the EUIPO considers all of its employees' happiness to be paramount and provides creature comforts such as a basketball court – painted Euro-blue with the EU stars, and a football pitch. When it comes to food, EUIPO's restaurant is apparently top class and offerings on the menu include items such as "octopus carpaccio and slow-cooked beef with truffle jus".

EUIPO is a big player

Compared with many other IP Offices, EUIPO is a mega-company, with a large annual budget, €455 million, and some 1200 employees. EUIPO gets no funding from the EU, for the simple reason that it doesn't need it. Instead, funding is generated through trade mark and design application filing fees (EUR850 and upwards), and it receives many applications - more than 174 000 trade mark applications in 2022.

What EUIPO does and doesn't do

EUIPO registers trade marks and designs. EUIPO also deals with registration-related issues like opposition and cancellations. What it does not do is deal with infringement issues - these are dealt with locally through the courts of each member state, or through alternative dispute resolution.

The Executive Director

EUIPO has a new Executive Director, Joao Negrao who is keen to expand EUIPO's activities, and he says that the office "has the capacity to implement whatever the legislator wants to give us".

New powers

There are exciting things in the pipeline for EUIPO, in the form of new powers:

  • Standard-essential patents ("SEPS")

EUIPO, says the Politico article, is "set to wade into" the area of SEPS. We're told that "under draft rules the agency would broker deals between patent giants worth billions of Euros to curb their expensive battles if the new legislation – proposed by the European Commission in April – is formally adopted by the EU institutions."

For those who are unfamiliar with SEPS, the GOV.UK website defines a standard-essential patent as "a patent that protects technology that is essential to implementing a is also referred to as a 'technical standard' or 'technical interoperability standard'...for example, mobile phones, wireless connectivity, navigation systems in cars and smart meters all use technical standards."

Politico suggests that creating a unit to deal with SEPS will be expensive, as it will require licensing experts. Even if EUIPO does plan to charge companies for access to the proposed SEP register, "EUIPO would need to run a register of thousands of SEPS that apply in the EU and their royalty rates, as well as recruit patent experts to help companies wrangling over payments through a compulsory negotiation process."

  • GIs for craftworks

On the other side of the scale, EUIPO is set to get new powers in relation to geographical indications ("GIs") for craftworks – including some iconic products like Murano glass and German cuckoo clocks.

European synergy

Negrao wants to work with the European Commission on measures "to encourage small businesses to register IP rights and monetize them". EUIPO's blue-sky thinking also fits in with EU President's Ursula von der Leyen's "quest to shore up Europe's competitiveness against regions like the US and China.".

Pan-African IP office aspirations

As part of its Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa to 2024 (STISA-2024), the African Union adopted the statutes of the Pan-African Intellectual Property Organization ("PAIPO") in 2016. Although such a system is still very much a work in progress and it remains to be seen whether and to what extent this system might be implemented, there are certainly lessons to be learned from the successes of the EUIPO.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.