Basic information about EU trademarks
EU trademarks are registered trademarks that are valid in all EU member states, i.e. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom. EU trademark system coexists with national trademark systems of EU member states.
The body responsible for administering the EU trademark system, including examining applications and registering EU trademarks, is called "European Union Intellectual Property Office", commonly referred to as EUIPO.
EU trademarks are valid for 10 years counting from the application date. They can be renewed, like other trademarks, indefinitely. It is also possible to get an EU trademark using the international trademark registration system (the "Madrid system").
What are the benefits of EU trademark?
You can cover the whole European Union with one single registration. Registered EU trademark gives you legal rights in all EU member states (current and future ones). It is the most effective way to protect your trademark in Europe. The cost of registration is relatively small. For a trademark in one trademark class the cost is approximately 3€ country/year.
Apart from relatively small cost, using EU trademarks rather than national trademarks makes portfolio management much easier and cheaper. If you use national trademarks in EU, you will have to manage for example 28 renewals rather than just 1. So it makes administering and managing trademark portfolios much easier.
What are the downsides of EU trademark?
The initial cost is slightly higher than filing a trademark in only one or two European countries. On the other hand, if you add local attorney fees to each country, the costs start adding up. If you need trademark protection in only one or two EU countries, it might be cheaper to protect the mark in those, but more than that, EU trademark will be much cheaper.
Another downside is that the distinctiveness (i.e. whether the applied mark describes the goods and services covered by the trademark and thus cannot be registered) is assessed in all EU languages. So the tradenark cannot be descriptive of its products in any EU language.
Finally, prior registered trademarks in any EU country can be enough to prevent the granting of EU trademark. It will be for the owners of prior marks to oppose your application if they want it to be registered, but even single national trademark in one country (e.g. Malta) can be enough to prevent the EU registration as a whole (in which case you should protect your trademark nationally).
For most companies that want to operate in several EU countries the EU trademark system is a better option than registering the trademark in individual countries. Our clients have filed much more EU trademarks than national trademarks. The ratio for this year is more than 3:1 in favour of EU trademarks.