The CTM (Community Trade Mark) registration, which provides protection across most of Europe, has become a staple of international trademark portfolios since introduction in 1996. But, some big changes are coming for the 20th anniversary. Most notably, the CTM name will be changed to the “European Union Trade Mark.” Also, the registrar’s office in Alicante, Spain, now known as OHIM (Office of Harmonization in the International Market), will be re-named as the “European Union Intellectual Property Office,” and the Community Trade Mark Courts will be called the “European Trade Mark Courts.” Other technical changes will include new filing/renewal fee structures, stricter rules for listing goods and services, and some enhanced mechanisms for enforcement against infringers. Final approval by the European Parliament is expected imminently, at which time most changes will become effective, but portions of the overhaul package will require adoption into the national laws of member countries. The Firm continues to assist clients with trademark registration and enforcement in virtually every country of the world.
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The European Parliament has approved some proposed amendments to EU copyright law. The proposals must now pass a final step before becoming law. The stated intention of the amendments is to bring Europe’s copyright protection in line with how content is being created and used in the internet age. The text of the law is not yet finalized, and the vote on the finalized text will not occur until January 2019. However, speculation has only just begun as to what effect the proposed laws will have on the freedom of the internet. Of the 24 Articles proposed in the new Directive, 2 have received attention as being especially controversial: Article 11 and Article 13.
Article 11 proposes to grant the same rights to news media publishers as is currently provided to authors, performers, film producers, and broadcasting organizations. Some commentators believe this amendment will discourage some aspects of the exchange of news articles, such as “link previews” that show a snippet of the linked article to a reader. These commentators believe this will, in turn, limit access to information and boost “fake news.”
Article 13 proposes to increase copyright liability for popular websites that host user-submitted content. The current law places most of the responsibility for avoiding copyright infringement on the user who submits the content; but the proposed amendment redirects much of this liability to the hosting website. Commentators who criticize this proposed amendment include internet luminaries who argue the new law will stifle the freedom of information on the internet. These commentators believe that if the big internet companies who post user-submitted content are also required to police that content more closely, then that policing will necessarily be overbroad; and the result will be the muffling of the freedom of speech and creativity on the internet.
It is difficult to predict what effect the laws will have on the free flow of information and creativity on the internet. This unpredictability is especially true because the laws themselves are not yet finalized. So, between now and January 2019, the proposals are ripe for debate; and maybe the proposed laws are ripe for revision.