Register a European trademark
While the registration of a French trademark can sometimes offer sufficient protection, the enlargement to a European trademark is now proving to be more and more opportune. The internationalisation of trade and globalisation nowadays and more often than not, implies the need to export abroad, a hypothesis in which more extensive protection is required. The protection granted to European trademarks is particularly interesting in this respect.
Protection extended to all European Union countries
The protection granted by the European Union automatically concerns the 27 Member States of the Union, without reaching an excessive price. Registering a French trademark with the INPI (French National Institute for Industrial Property) is generally charged between 250 and 300 euros; that of a European trademark will only be charged at 900 euros, for effective protection in 27 states, i.e. a market of around 500 million consumers. Except if only a very small number of foreign countries are targeted, it is therefore much more interesting to opt for a European trademark than to register a national trademark in each country concerned. It is therefore a unitary title, registered with a single organisation in return for a single payment. The competent office, EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office), centralises the applications and in principle issues the registration within 6 months.
However, the advantage of a unitary title can also backfire on the applicant: all countries, without exception, must accept registration, otherwise the application is automatically rejected. In other words, the trademark must be available in all 27 countries of the Union and not be the subject of any well-founded opposition. In this case, the application can still be transformed into different national applications for the countries concerned, but the operation will give rise to a conversion fee in addition to the national fees required in each country for the registration of a national trademark. On the other hand, the transformation is automatic, which means that the file filed before the EUIPO will be transmitted to the countries concerned without having to make new individual applications.
A thorough search for availability is therefore of paramount importance. There are approximately 10 million registered trademarks in the European Union, which necessarily gives rise to a high number of oppositions when filing a new trademark, in the order of 20%. To facilitate prior art searchesIn addition, several organizations offer to carry out searches directly online free of charge, which is also offered by the INPI through its "trademark databases".
The priority period following the registration of a national trademark
The prior filing of a national trademark is not necessary for a Community-wide application, but is often an essential step and greatly facilitates the process of extension abroad. The filing of a national trademark, in the French case, gives a "right of priority" when filing a Community or international trademark. In order to benefit from this right of priority, the European trademark must be filed within 6 months following the filing of the national trademark. If the application is accepted, the European trademark will be considered as having been filed on the date of the national trademark application: in other words, it will have priority over applications filed by third parties within this 6-month period.
The priority period thus allows the applicant to assess the commercial potential of his trademark and his products, and then to be able to estimate the opportunity of registering a European trademark.