As from 1 October 2013 several changes will take effect in the Benelux, which will enhance harmonization, improve efficiency, increase user-friendliness and update the regulations to reflect current times.

The following provisions come into effect on 1 October 2013:

English as a working language: The current official languages in the Benelux are Dutch and French. As from 1 October 2013 English will be introduced as a working language, enabling the filing of applications in English and communications with the Office in English. This will make the filing of applications for foreign companies/individuals much easier and more straightforward as it will no longer be necessary for the goods and services to be translated into one of the official Benelux languages, thus avoiding additional costs and inconsistencies in translation.

Changes in the calculation of the opposition period: The opposition period is currently calculated from the first day of the month following publication. As of 1 October 2013, it will be calculated from the date of publication, thus decreasing the potential opposition period from a possible almost three months to a regular, predictable two months, decreasing the period of "uncertainty" as to whether an application will be objected to or not. This will also increase efficiency as under the current system, all oppositions were filed on or just before the first of the month, leading to a bit of a backlog at the beginning of the month at the Benelux Office. The filing of oppositions will now be spread throughout the month.

Change in the period for extension of the cooling off period and suspension of oppositions: Currently, upon joint request of both parties, the opposition can be deferred for two months. As of 1 October 2013, this period will be extended to four months, thus in most cases decreasing costs in extending deadlines whilst negotiating a possible amicable settlement.

Simplification of renewal of trademark registrations: Currently, when renewing, a written request for renewal is required, combined with payment of the official fees. As of 1 October 2013, payment of the official fees alone (by means of an online renewal payment request) will be sufficient to maintain the registration for a further ten years. This notably simplifies the requirements for renewal which increases efficiency and decreases costs. Until now, the Benelux Office was one of the few offices (if not the only) that examined the classification of the registration at the time of renewal, often leading to amendments in the lists of goods and services. This extra examination round has been abolished, allowing for the new and more basic renewal system where payment alone is enough. Should the renewal of the mark only be required for a limited list of goods and services, a written request will however still be mandatory, and should preferably be filed before the renewal, avoiding possibly unnecessary renewal costs.

Recordals of change of representation for various trademark proprietors: Currently a separate request for recordal of service is required per trademark proprietor. As of 1 October 2013, a single request for recordal of service for a number of trademarks in the name of different proprietors will be possible, thus decreasing costs.

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.