14 December 2010

New OHIM President Campinos Wants to Transform his Registration Office into "True IP Agency"

[Antonio Campinos, OHIM President]
Mr. António Campinos, former president of Portugal's Institute of Industrial Property, who has been appointed as OHIM President from 1 October 2010, has great plans for OHIM, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market in Alicante, Spain, as titled by the 1709 blog with reference to Mr Campinos' speech at the Brussels IP 2010 Summit on December 3: "OHIM is becoming a true 'IP agency'", which is in deed more thrilling than a boring registration office.

As reported by WTR in a series of postings (here, here and here), Campinos' vision for the future of OHIM especially involves an active role in enforcement activities, to provide enforcement measures on the community level. In this regard, he intends that OHIM contributes to the EU Commission’s "Observatory on Counterfeiting" by harmonising the enforcement of IP rights in member states, which fueled speculations that the Observatory will be merged into OHIM, as a starting point of OHIMs future fight against counterfeiting.

A series of meetings of the OHIM Administrative Board and Budget Committee in Alicante took place on November 22 to 24. The Administrative Board (AB) includes representatives of the 27 EU member states, the EU Commission and five so-called user associations, namely INTA, Marques, IAM, ECTA, and BusinessEurope. In these meetings, the AB received a detailed briefing from President Campinos, covering Office performance, plans for enhanced cooperation, and details on new competencies which may be undertaken by OHIM, including a deeper involvement in IP enforcement.

Participants of the briefing reported later that Campinos appears to be willing to spend money, especially on cooperation with the EU Commission for strenghtening OHIM's compentences in the new filed.

Most interesting in this regard were, presumably, the 40th meeting of the Administrative Board on November 22 and the 38th meeting of the Budget Committee on November 24. In these meetings, Campinos explained the new competencies of the OHIM, i.e. its involvement in enforcement in relation to the Observatory. The Observatory actually does not have sufficient resources and funding, while the Commission is working on an assessment to decide how the Observatory can help to make progress in the fight against counterfeiting. Michael Barnier, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, already confirmed that OHIM should be involved in enforcement and in the Observatory. For that reason, the 2011 budget includes 10 new positions and a budget for enforcement activity (see also press release of November 26).

Margot Fröhlinger, Director of Knowledge-Based Economy inside the DG Internal Market, clearly said that she expects that the Observatory will be coordinated by OHIM in the future. She appeared to be impressed with the ideas of the new management regarding enforcement activities.

Then, in the speech at the Brussels IP 2010 Summit on December 3, Campinos referred to some more concrete issues:
Another area in which we could do more is “enforcement”. This idea has been welcomed by some, and questioned by others. I would ask again: What point is there having a reactive and efficient Community trade mark and design registration system, if at the enforcement stage, each country does its own thing?

For the future, we can clearly play a major role in initiatives such as the Commission’s Observatory on counterfeiting and piracy. We can also build on the expertise in the area of enforcement already gained through our seminar series for judges in the CTM and RCD courts in EU member states. [...] In addition, enforcement is already incorporated into other training activities and the Office has promoted awareness through tools such as the Hands off My Design e-learning website. We can do more here and are already studying the best way of coordinating and reinforcing these activities through the creation of an OHIM Academy.

Likewise, we have considerable experience in building database tools. [...] One such project will create a multi-modular tool allowing IP enforcement authorities to consult information on registered trade marks and designs, as well as contact information for right holders and other information to allow detection of counterfeit goods.

[There are] opportunities for the Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market to become a true IP agency and not just a registration office.
President Campinos' idea to transform OHIM into an IP agency and the fact that he promotes enforcement of IP rights in general (not only of trademarks and designs) reminds me of the discussion following a posting on the IPJur blog on a proposal for a Council regulation on the Community patent in September 2009, where readers speculated on the role of the OHIM in the patent field and the sources of such proposals:
OHIM will be formally responsible for the community patent but all actual examination work is done by the EPO. [...] OHIM itself would just manage the workflows, seal the work and do quality review. Of course OHIM could also be a EU Patent Office in Munich.
If this proposal comes from Spanish politicians, the point becomes in fact blatantly clear: accommodating the powerful vested interests of some Spanish IP firms. Spain has a big deficit of qualified European patent attorneys. [...] However, the requirements for representing a client before OHIM are much lower.