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Thursday, 29 April 2004

OHIM STAFF COMMITTEE RESIGNS, OR HOW TO RUN THE SIX-MINUTE MILE


As the IPKat reported on Tuesday, the entire OHIM Staff Committee resigned on Monday. The former Staff Committee has issued a press release, blaming its decision on the failure of OHIM management to consult with the Committee, particularly on employment policy. The Committee has also voiced its concern at what it sees as a decline in the quality of granted Community trade marks (CTMs).

The Committee alleges that, while other EU bodies have been willing to meet with them, OHIM and its President Wubbo de Boer have failed to engage in any meaningful dialogue with them. This is despite a series of demonstrations at the Office which culminated in a one-day strike on 15 January 2004 (see IPKat blogs of 15 and 26 January). In fact, the Committee claims that Mr de Boer has not met the Staff Committee since 6 November 2003 while the Committee new staff policy, which was presented to the Administrative Board and Budget Committee on 27 April 2004. This has provoked the entire Committee to resign as a “final and extraordinary sign of protest”.

Before resigning, the Staff Committee distributed a note on quality. In it, the Committee makes harsh criticisms of the efficacy of the examination process and hence of the quality of the CTMs and Community designs which are the result of that process.

The main accusation is that OHIM is putting time targets before quality. In 2004, the target for examining each trade mark was cut from 11 minutes to just six minutes. In such a short period of time, errors are common. They claim that “The actual, legal quality of our work, the legal value of our product simply does not matter anymore.” Guidelines are not being updated and there is no harmonised practice in OHIM between the different services and the different Boards of Appeal. Moreover, staff are being forced to carry out tasks they were not hired or trained to do and the resultant decisions are unsatisfactory. Additionally, quality control is unsatisfactory and difficult files are being left aside in favour of easier files which are quicker to deal with. As a result, marks are not being properly examined, leaving them more vulnerable to cancellation. This could act as a disincentive to undertakings to filing applications and is of particular concern to the Staff Committee: fewer applications could lead to a reduction in jobs. The problem can only get worse as 10 new Member States join the EU. Accordingly the Staff Committee has called upon OHIM:

“* To provide registered rights which are safe and valuable.
* To provide legal services of the highest quality.
* To advance the harmonisation of trade mark and design law within the European Union.

In order to achieve this, management must stop:
* Cutting corners.
* Treating its users like fools – because they are not.
* Treating its staff like fools – because we are not”.

The IPKat is obviously disturbed by the Staff Committee’s allegations and would like to hear OHIM’s side of the story.

Things you can do in 11 minutes here, here and here
Things you can do in six minutes here, here and here
Er, career opportunities with OHIM here

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