Registration of a European Union (EU) trademark is performed via the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Spain. The application process consists of three parts: examination, publication and registration. Once the third stage is complete, a person or company has exclusive rights to that EU trademark in all 27 member countries within the EU.
Often called a logo, a person or organization may have a unique way of writing text or using a symbol to establish or protect brand identity. When this unique mark is registered as a trademark, then rights are granted which allow exclusive use by a particular entity. Similar to the US Patent and Trademark Office, the OHIM is the organization within the EU which processes applications and then deems them either registered EU trademarks or not, depending on the results of their investigation.
The first step of the application process is examination, also called review. The potential EU trademark is researched to find out if there is a legitimate case to grant exclusive rights to a particular party. If the results of the review are positive, the next step is publication of the application. Once an application is published, any interested party that opposes the registration is granted three months to file an opposition claim. The final step, which includes any opposition proceedings, is called the registration.
A registered EU trademark has rights within all 27 member countries, and one must apply for the right to use it within the entire geographic market. If an entity wishes to register a trademark just within a specific country or region, a national trademark might be a better option. All or most of the EU countries have governing agencies that will register a trademark within its borders only.
The EU trademark is the only process that will grant legal protection of the mark in the EU, so that if another person or company uses a trademarked design, the owner of the trademark has the right to sue for damages. OHIM is the only organization which can grant trademark status throughout the EU. The OHIM is regulated by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
There is no obligation to file trademark status to use a company name or logo; it simply will not be legally protected. The mark can be used at any time and throughout the approval process. There is, however, an obligation to use an EU trademark within five years of the registration. If the trademark is not used within the allotted time, it can be suspended or revoked.