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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Time to tackle the money mountain: what's YOUR opinion?

As readers of this weblog will know, the European Commission is in the middle of conducting a study on Europe's various trade mark systems. At the heart of this study lies the user survey which the Max Planck Institute is running. This focuses on, among other things, what users of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) feel about the system and how satisfied they are. More information on this survey can be found on the MARQUES website here.


OHIM is supposed to run on a balanced budget. Over the years, however, the surplus has continued to grow due to the popularity of the system [and because the fees were too high, adds Merpel]. In order to deal with this unhealthy surplus, OHIM's Administrative Board and Budget Committee decided way back in September 2008 to reduce the fees, to set up the Cooperation Fund to give away €50 million and to dedicate 50% of the renewal fees for Community trade marks to the EU's national trade mark offices - something that user organisations have found hard to swallow since they don't see why, by opting for a Community trade mark, they should have to subsidise national systems.

However, there is one very important question which individual users have not yet been asked -- and which should be part of the study. What should be done with the remaining €400 million which is not part of the €50 million mentioned above and which is still sitting pretty in OHIM's bank accounts.

One proposal (put forward by OHIM itself) is to refund the surplus to previous applicants, who have after all been overcharged. Another idea is to transfer responsibility for the so-called Observatory [on which you can see the IPKat's comments here and here] to OHIM and spend the surplus through the Observatory's activities.

Some frustrated users are suggesting simply letting the money go back into the European Community coffers rather than having it spent on useless anti-counterfeiting campaigns and rather than risk it sneaking into Member States' coffers via national offices' budgets.

MARQUES is looking for answers from users themselves. What would you like to see done with this significant amount of money? Any idea is welcome. Please go to and post your answer here, or email it to the IPKat's friend and long-term inspiration Tove Graulund here.

4 comments:

Roufousse T. Fairfly said...

... to set up the Cooperation Fund to give away €50 million and to dedicate 50% of the renewal fees for Community trade marks to the EU's national trade mark offices - something that user organisations have found hard to swallow since they don't see why, by opting for a Community trade mark, they should have to subsidise national systems.


Well, they would only be importing tried and true technology from the EPO... The same gangs run both organisation, and already consider the EPO as a cash cow for subsidising their money-losing national patent operations. This situation is explicitly exposed in many NP(T)O's annual reports, for example the UKPTO's, and commented in the Gower Review. The solution? Plunder the EPO in any possible way, for instance under the guise of "cooperation" and adopting maladapted accounting rules to make its accounts in the worst possible light.

Anonymous said...

Is our friend Rousse inheriting the Marx Bros mantle and challelling Rufus T Firefly? Anyway, anti-counterfeiting campaigns may be 'useless' but they keep lots of us in work, relatively harmlessly, so don't knock it.

Jakob said...

Tranferring money back to the applicants would only lead to massive administration work and costs.

Looking at the bigger picture - the money belongs to the EU - and thus to the memberstates of the EU.

A surplus in an EU-institution should be used to limit EU/EU- memberstate costs. In this situation this can be done by simply spending the money on paying the salaries of the OHIM employees for X years. I have no idea how many years it would take to bring the surplus to zero, but during that period OHIM should receive no further budget and the official fees should be regulated at least twice a year to make sure no surplus this size is ever build up again.

And could we then please have some decent assurance that the new OHIM leadership will not build up a similar surplus yet again!

Anonymous said...

Wanna get rid of the €400 million? Easy: buy Wubbo and Peter for what they think they're worth, then sell them for what they are worth.

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