A CTM fee increase is coming. In 1996 the Community Trade Mark came into being, providing business owners with a trade mark which covered the entire European Union with one single application.

It was nothing short of revolutionary, and I remember it well.

The floor of the Trade Mark Records office was covered in applications being prepared for the big day. All the applications were to be filed by fax, with the current ease of online filing being a distant dream. I was a young twenty-something trade mark assistant back in 1996. The Prodigy was to reach number one in the charts with “Firestarter”; Charles and Di were getting divorced, and Bill Clinton was getting re-elected.

The Community Trade Mark was an instant success and continues to be so, for many good reasons. It remains the most cost-effective method of obtaining protection across the European Union, providing brand owners with an exclusive right across twenty-eight territories – approximately 500 million consumers – effectively for the price of a pint of milk per day.

But the CTM system required modernisation. An extensive review was conducted, and the most significant changes for nearly twenty years will come into force on 23 March 2016, including a CTM fee increase.

Why we’re having a fee increase

Some of the changes are largely cosmetic, though welcomed for clarity and legal certainty. Community Trade Marks (CTMs) will be renamed European Union Trade Marks (EUTMs). The CTM Office, originally given the catchy title of the “Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market”, will become the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

However, the most relevant of the changes as regards the impact on business owners will be the fact that the fee structure has been overhauled causing a CTM increase.

Previously, the official fees for an application covered three classes. Now the basic fee will cover one class only. This means an increased cost for the majority of business owners unless these owners act fast to secure their applications.

For brand owners seeking protection in one class only, there will be a slight reduction in official fees to €850.

For those filing in three classes and above, EUTMs will be more expensive. The costs will increase from €900 to €1050, with an extra €150 per subsequent class added.

Business owners with interests in multiple classes should, therefore, take advantage of the current fee structure by filing applications for EUTMs in advance of next month’s reforms.

For further advice on the imminent changes to the Community Trade Mark system, or general reminiscing about 1996, please contact Ward Trade Marks by email on rachael@wardtrademarks.com or by phone on 01284 774841.