Every business should be able to access trademark and design rights, and in the EU this can be done either at national or European level. In the EU Member States, national intellectual property offices register trademark and design rights valid in that Member State. At the European level, the decentralised agency of the EU, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) administers unitary protection for businesses looking to secure their trademark and design rights across the EU.
This parallel system is a critical aspect of the intellectual property (IP) system, enabling businesses to obtain the right protection for their needs. In 2010, some National IP offices had fully electronic systems, making it easy to apply online for a trademark or design. Some did not, resulting in delays and barriers for many businesses to secure IP rights.
The IP offices and main user associations of the EU therefore began to work together on a unique venture to improve the IP system in the EU, known as the Cooperation Fund (CF). The fund was financed entirely by EUIPO, with a budget of €50 million. In five years it developed, built and implemented tools and services geared towards helping users secure their IP rights in the EU, and helping EU IP offices to go move online – saving time and money for their users, particularly SMEs, which represent 99% of all EU businesses.
The Cooperation Fund was collaborative at its very core, building tools and services not just for users and IP offices, but with them. Through a project-based structure, it leveraged the expertise of EU national office experts, IP professionals and businesses to build a series of advanced tools, services and solutions that covered every aspect of the IP life cycle: from the initial search process, through to application and registration, management and enforcement of IP rights.
Close cooperation via technical work, inter-organisational staff exchange and focused teamwork on specific projects has shown that governments and IP authorities across the EU could work together to support each other, promoting IP protection and transparency for all users, wherever they are. The various working groups guided project teams composed of experts and consulting companies. This meant that every six months, experts from public services or companies were invited to attend a week-long workshop together with the technicians, and the architectural experts who either built the tools or developed their design.
Each intellectual property office designated several of its staff members to the development and implementation of the projects. EUIPO financed the deployment of project managers in some offices, to ensure the successful delivery of all the tools and services. The deployed project managers provided a direct daily link between EUIPO and the EU national and regional intellectual property offices, and helped to maximise the number of successful implementations of the projects.
To increase accessibility, they were all gathered through one common portal. It has never been quicker and easier to file a trademark or a design, through reliable and user-friendly technology. Powerful databases containing over 40 million global trademarks and 10 million global designs are within the reach of anyone who wants to use them. Businesses and enforcers are connected through a single platform to help in the fight against counterfeiting.