The Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), an entity responsible for registering EU trademarks, has introduced an accelerated procedure of registering trademarks, referred to as “Fast Track”.
Thanks to this, entrepreneurs wishing to protect their designations, such as logotypes or unique business names – by fulfilling specific requirements indicated by the Office – may register them more quickly and thus obtain formal protection throughout the European Union. According to Article 1 Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the Community trademark – a Community trademark is uniform and has equal effect throughout the European Union.
In order for the application to register a trademark to be eligible for the consideration by the Office in the Fast Track procedure, two basic conditions have to be fulfilled:
- firstly, goods and services designated with the trademark indicated in the application should be specified according to the terminology of base of goods and services accepted by OHIM;
- secondly, the application fee must be paid in advance.
Additionally, the Fast Track procedure provides for some other conditions, most important of which are the following:
- the submitted trademark should be a word, graphic, three-dimensional or sound trademark and may not be a so called collective mark;
- reservation of colors of graphic marks and three-dimensional marks is possible exclusively in the scope of standard colors indicated on the form;
- the submitting entity should have a place of residence or a registered office within the EU (in the case of non-EU entities an authorized representative should be indicated);
- the application may not specify the description of the mark nor include a waiver of exclusive right.
In case the payment was made immediately and the application is complete – the Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market commences the accelerated registration.
One should also remember that certain applications fulfilling the original conditions regarding their consideration in the Fast Track procedure may be reclassified to a normal mode, e.g. due to the fact that a given mark does not have an appropriate distinguishing character. In such a case, OHIM will notify the applicant of this fact.
Undoubtedly, the Fast Track procedure has an advantage that the period between accepting the mark’s application and its publication has been considerably shortened – from about 2-3 months to even 4 weeks. After this first stage, a 3-month period in which third parties may voice their objections towards the mark’s registration is commenced. Should there be no such objection, the mark is registered and published. This means that entrepreneurs may expect a positive decision on being granted a formal protection right as early as after about 4 months of properly submitting a registration application. For comparison purposes, registration of a trademark in the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland occurs in practice after the lapse of 1 year of submitting an application at the earliest.
Moreover, the Fast Track system is more secure since the mark is submitted in respect to a harmonized base of goods and services accepted by OHIM – which without a doubt prevents making errors and does away with the need to further specify goods and services that will be designated with the trademark.
Finally, it should be pointed out the Fast Track procedure is not subject to any additional official fees.
Therefore, the changes introduced to the procedure of registering EU trademarks should be perceived as favorable. They will most certainly result in granting the protection of rights more quickly and will save some stress for impatient entrepreneurs that wish to register their brands as soon as possible.