Since April 1st, 1996 the Europaen Trade Marks Office (EUIPO) is operative.
The territory comprises the following Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark (not icluding Faroe and Greenland), Estonia, Finland, France (except some of the Overseas Departments), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovena, Spain and Sweden.
The Union Trade Mark is also available for applicants outside the European Union. When new member states join the territorial coverage expands by operation of law.
It is possible to claim prior registrations in the Member States in a Union Trade Mark. The prior national registrations are than allowed to lapse.
Oppositions are possible. Oppositions are administrative proceedings before the Office and not in the Law Courts. Not all conflicts are suitable for opposition proceedings, but in general these are advisable as the costs are only a fraction of court litigation costs. Prior to filing a notice of opposition it should be checked whether the registration at the basis of the opposition reflect the proper name and address of the opponent. If registration is over 5 years old evidence of normal use should be made available to substantiate the opposition and to avoid cancellation action due to non-use.
It is also possible to file a cancellation action with EUIPO in stead of an expensive Court action. In this case there should also be taken into account that the registration at the basis of the cancellation action has been used the past 5 years and that this has to be proved.
An European Union Trade Mark has a validity of 10 years, renewable for like periods. There is a 6 month grace period against payment of extra fees.
Advantages and disadvantages
It is an advantage that in one single application a large territory is being covered for a moderate fee. Another advantage is that use in a part of the Europen Union maintains title to the mark in the entire union.
Also there exists the possibility of relatively cheap administrative opposition and cancellation proceedings.
Because the standards of EUIPO are sometimes more lenient than the national standards it is possible to acquire a registration which was impossible to obtain at a national level because the union Trade Mark is also effective in the Member State concerned.