EUIPO – 25 years protecting innovation
In 1994, the EUIPO began life as the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). Created as a decentralised agency of the EU, the Office was set up in Alicante, Spain, with a remit to administer the new EU-wide unitary property right, the Community Trade Mark (CTM) – now the EU Trade Mark.
Over the course of two and a half decades, the EUIPO has contributed decisively to the modernisation of the intellectual property landscape in the EU. It has worked with its partner IP offices across the EU on common projects, all with one aim – to benefit all users of the EU trade mark and design system, wherever and however they choose to seek protection.
Through the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, the EUIPO is engaged in providing evidence-based information about the importance of intellectual property, for policy-makers and citizens alike.
The EUIPO forms part of the network of EU agencies. Agencies are specialist bodies set up under EU law to perform a variety of tasks, and located across the European Union. The EUIPO has been based in Alicante since its foundation, and according to a study carried out by the city’s Chamber of Commerce, has had an economic impact of over EUR 6 000 million in the region and the wider province since 1996
The Office’s commitment to digital transformation has underscored a large part of its development. Online filing of trade mark and design applications was the first step; from those beginnings the EUIPO has developed a full online user experience, which allows nearly every interaction with the Office to be done electronically.
In addition, the recent legislative reform process has modernised the trade mark system in the EU, bringing it up to date for the digital age.
Today, the EUIPO is a strong support to the internal market of the EU, as its founders intended. It is an EU agency with a truly global reach, protecting innovation and creativity across the Union, and playing its part to strengthen intellectual property at European and international level.
The EUIPO then and now – a timeline
1994 – 1998 The beginnings
The EUIPO, then known as the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) was one of six agencies set up under the 1993 Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty). With administrative and financial autonomy, the new agency had as its task the management of a new EU-wide intellectual property right, the European Union trade mark (then known as the Community trade mark).
Spain was designated as the host country for the EUIPO, with the coastal city of Alicante chosen as its seat.
In September 1994, the EUIPO opened its doors for the first time, in a rented office in Alicante city centre.
At that point, the Office had just a handful of staff, and its activities were focused on preparing the necessary administrative infrastructure ahead of the first possible filing date for the new unitary trade mark, on 1 April 1996.
A decision had already been taken that CTM applicants could file in all languages of the EU (11 at that stage) with the five working languages of the Office being English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
The Office was starting from scratch. Everything – from computers to chairs – had to be sourced, purchased and made ready ahead of the all-important first filling date.
Pictured: EUIPO’s first headquarters in Avenida Aguilera, in the centre of Alicante
1996: first CTM registration received
In April 1996, the intense work that had gone into setting up the Office finally came to fruition. The first Community trade marks were received, in quantities that surpassed even the most optimistic projections.
In the first month alone, close to 22 000 trade mark applications were sent to the Office.
The original prediction had been for 15 000 in the first full year of operations.
In effect, the Office had received more trade mark applications in its first few days of activity than had been anticipated for its first eighteen months.
By the end of 1996, 46 700 trade mark applications had been received. As well as confirming the success of the new EU trade mark system as a valuable tool for business both inside and outside the Union, this also meant that the income the Office earned from fees had surpassed its outgoings, and that the new agency was now fully financially self-sustaining.
Pictured: trade mark applications being examined in the early days of the EUIPO
1996-1999: the pace quickens
The new Office had a set of well-defined tasks to carry out under the Trade Mark Regulation. Among them: the setting up of an Opposition Division; a Cancellation Division; and the Boards of Appeal. By the end of 1996, for example, the Boards of Appeal, with only six members, had already received 20 appeals.
The Office was consolidating itself as an IP office with global reach, confirming the vision of its founding fathers as it became both a motor and a reflection of the EU’s Internal Market.
The huge inflow of filings meant that the Office had to expand quickly. The rented offices were rapidly proving unsuitable, and a new headquarters was needed.
Construction begins on EUIPO’s main headquarters, in Agua Amarga, on the outskirts of Alicante.
With the support of the Spanish government and the local and regional political structure, the site for the new headquarters was identified and secured. The Office’s workforce had expanded in line with the higher than predicted volume of applications, and the greatly consequent higher workload meant that more IP experts had to be accomodated.
It is still EUIPO’s seat today, situated off the road that links the city to the airport, and well served by transport links to and from the centre.
Pictured: Aerial view of EUIPO’s headquarters, half way through the initial construction process
1999-2011 The take-off
Once installed in its permanent home in the outskirts of Alicante city centre, the pace of work quickened. Electronic trade mark filing was being improved and upgraded at the same time as the Office was busy implementing the framework for the first Community Design applications.
The Registered Community Design would become the second unitary IP right administered by the Office. Like the EU trade mark, it was to cover every EU member state, expanding its scope of protection as the Union expanded. It rapidly became another success story for the EU-wide intellectual property system.
The Office began accepting applications for Registered Community Designs in 2003. The dream of a unitary design right for the EU had taken many years to come true, but like the EU trade mark, it was a success from the outset.
Designed to be a flexible, inclusive IP right, and aimed at every type of user, from multinationals to individual designers, the RCD is a powerful tool for business.
Pictured: Design number 000000013-0001, registered on 1 April 2003, the first ever Registered Community Design.
At the same time, a huge amount of work was taking place to prepare for the “big bang” accession of 2004, which saw 10 new Member States join the EU family. That work would be repeated a few years later when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU.
10 new Member States meant 10 new languages through which to administer trade mark and design applications, plus an increase in cooperation activities and an expansion of the Office’s EU-wide networks.
Preparation work was intense, but the final result saw the scope of protection of the EU trade mark and Registered Community Design extended to users across the Union.
Pictured: The first Liaison Meeting with the Member States after the 2004 accession, featuring representatives from the new Member States.
All this took place against the backdrop of steadily increasing application volumes, enhanced international cooperation and deepening collaboration with the national and regional IP offices of the EU on a host of issues of mutual interest.
The Office’s drive to provide open, accessible databases began too; TMview and TMclass were developed and released in the latter part of the 2000s, with EU national and regional offices joining one by one.
And a landmark Management Board meeting in 2008 began the process of kick-starting a project that would in many ways define the first part of the next decade for the Office – the Cooperation Fund.
2012 – today: Expansion and growth
The second decade of the new century ushered in a host of changes for the Office. Cooperation with national and regional EU IP offices became closer than ever, while international cooperation grew strongly. New tools and e-services were developed, to offer users a fully electronic experience across trade marks and designs. Underpinning all this effort was the Office’s first ever Strategic Plan – its roadmap for the future.
The transfer of the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights heralded in a new era for the Office. The Observatory, with a host of tasks under its own Regulation, was a new venture for IP at the European level, and its transfer brought infringement issues, like collaboration with enforcers, the development of specialised tools, the provision of evidence-based research and awareness-raising on IP.
The Observatory was created as part of the Commission's Internal Market and Services Directorate-General in April 2009 under the name of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. EUIPO, as the EU's principal agency devoted exclusively to IP matters, began co-operating closely with the Observatory under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in April 2011.
Following a proposal by the Commission, backed by the European Parliament and the Council, the Observatory was fully entrusted to EUIPO on 5 June 2012.
Pictured: 27 September 2012, and the first plenary meeting of the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights gets underway in Alicante.
The Regulation transferring the Observatory to EUIPO renamed it as the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights. Under this Regulation EUIPO has to finance the Observatory's activities.
The Cooperation Fund, the largest ever project undertaken by the Office, hit cruising speed in 2012. A suite of sophisticated tools and services developed for, and – crucially – in cooperation with national and regional IP offices and users was being developed. By the end of the Cooperation Fund’s five-year lifespan, the IP landscape in the EU would be transformed, with electronic filing possible in every Member State for the first time. The Fund’s wider legacy – a wide and deep network of collaborative practices and common working that stretched across the Union – is now firmly embedded in the Office’s DNA.
With a successful rollout of a full suite of tools and e-services across the EU, the Cooperation Fund was more than just a project.
It was an enormous collaborative effort that spanned the entire IP network of the European Union, modernising IP offices and delivering real enhancements to users. At its peak, more than 300 people across the EU were working on the suite of projects that fell under the broader Fund umbrella.
Pictured: the Cooperation Fund family at EUIPO, November 2012
The long-awaited trade mark reform package was finally published in 2015, with its entry into force set for 23 March, 2016. A change of name for the Office was in order- the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market became the European Union Intellectual Property Office. EUIPO absorbed huge changes to its work – a new fee structure, new practice changes and a new identity, with a second wave of changes due under the legislation on 1 October 2017, which further modernised the EU trade mark system, for the benefit of all users.
Under the new regulation, the name of the Office was harmonised with the terminology in the Treaty of Lisbon.
It was a new name for a new era, reflecting the expanded competences of the Office and its role in the EU intellectual property system. The Community trade mark also saw its name changed to the European Union trade mark.
Pictured: putting up the sign featuring the new name of the Office on 22 March 2016.
The physical transformation of the Office is one of the most striking aspects of its development over the past 25 years. From a rented office in the centre of Alicante to a purpose-built campus, it reflects the Office’s commitment to sustainability and to its local base in the region.
With the extension of its campus completed in 2018, the EUIPO’s headquarters is now truly sustainable.Solar panels and wind turbines help provide electricity, rain water is recycled and energy consumption has been significantly lowered
Pictured: an aerial view of the EUIPO campus, showing solar panels and wind turbines on the roof of the main structure.
The last 25 years have brought enormous technological change to the intellectual property landscape in the EU. When EUIPO was first founded, few could have imagined the digital future that awaited IP offices, their users and the marketplace. The EU itself has undergone three enlargements since 1994, with the scope of protection of both the EUTM and the RCD expanding with each one. And in an increasingly globalised world, international cooperation has become even more important, with the EUIPO working with the European Commission, third countries and regions and international users to support the IP system worldwide.
EUIPO’s first quarter century has been eventful. It remains to be seen what challenges the next 25 years will bring.