For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

CTM money continues to pour in ...

The IPKat makes no apology for returning to the subject of the forced overcharging of Community trade mark applicants in order to subsidise the activities of national trade mark offices. According to the Press Association:

"The European Union's trademark office is facing an embarrassing cash crisis - hundreds of millions of pounds in the bank and no way of spending it.

The non profit-making body based in Alicante was set up to register EU-wide trademarks.

But far from not making a profit, the agency has more than £230 million in the coffers - with an extra £190,000 pouring in every working day.

Now the boss of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) has blamed EU governments and euro-bureaucracy for blocking efforts to shift the surplus and cut trademark charges which are making the enterprise an unwanted financial success.

"This is not how it was meant to be" said OHIM President Wubbo de Boer. "It is becoming embarrassing - in fact it's absurd. Here we are sitting on all this money and unable to do anything about it because of the enormous internal bureaucracy we face".

The money cannot be poured into the EU budget: the agency is not a drain on resources because it is self-financing and takes no subsidies.

In his eight years at the agency Mr De Boer has overseen a major reorganisation which has seen productivity rise by nearly 60%.

That, and a thriving market in EU-wide trade mark registrations, has helped income soar.

But he says EU governments themselves are resisting reducing registration fees - because they fear undermining their own national trademark offices, which continue to provide trademarks for small business not intending to trade across borders.

"They think they will be forced out of business if it becomes as cheap to apply for an EU mark as for a national one, but that's not true," said Mr De Boer. "Many people only want a trademark valid in their own country and we will not interfere in that market"."
The IPKat congratulates Wubbo de Boer and his colleagues for making OHIM a better and more pleasant organisation for businesses to deal with, and warmly endorses the call to EU governments to do something about it -- other than just letting the money build up or feed it to national offices. The return of overcharged fees to businesses that are trying to boost Europe's economy and make it more competitive is the right and proper thing to do. Merpel says, who are the people whose responsibility it is to stop this nonsense now? They should be named and shamed -- if they have any shame, that is!

14 comments:

John H said...

The irony being, of course, that any private enterprise behaving in the same way as the national governments who are seeking to protect their local registries would be had up for breaching EU competition law...

Anonymous said...

Mr. De Boer is the first responsable of the OHIM surplus and today we are facing the real consequences of its bad human ressource policy. He has increased the productivity while hiring flexible workers (throught ADECCO) who are not IP professional but mainly secretaries. These secretaries draft Opposition decisions and as a consequence, the ruling are poorly substantiated and easily appealed. How comes that from 2006 to 2007, 300 more Opposition decisions have been appealed?
The only intention of Mr. de Boer is to continue reducing the OHIM staff from 700 to 450 people, by not replacing the temporary agents hired when the new 12 countries joined the Office.
This incredible idea to create a European TM and Design Office will be remember has a money machine devoided of any ambition to supply a real LEGAL service. OHIM is more than a mere registry office.

God bless OHIM and its people.

Jim Boff said...

Of course, if OHIM wish to avoid the embarrassment of excess cash they need simply adopt International Financial Reporting Standards and use their pensions liability as a way of wiping out the surplus [see EPO for a demonstration of this technique].

Oh - I forgot - OHIM has the EU backing it, and so does not need to fund its pensions in the same way, not does it need to present its accounts in the same way as the EU mandates for business in general.

Or perhaps the EPO could be permitted to adopt OHIM accounting rules as it provides a service to EU industry and otherwise the costs to industry, particularly SMEs is set to rise [what price the Lisbon agenda?]?

Peter Lawrence said...

Actually Jim, we have been conforming to International Oublic Accounting Standards for some years, and make a very hefty contribution each year to the Commission for the pension liability. I am surprised you missed it, if you looked at the accounts available on the website.

Peter Lawrence said...

"Anonymous" seems to forget that confirmation rates of office first instance decisions have never been higher, and that most of these "flexible" workers actually do a very good job, and are not secretaries. Of course if you take a lot more opposition decisions, you will get more appeals.

Jim Boff said...

Peter Lawrence said "Actually Jim, we have been conforming to International Oublic Accounting Standards for some years, and make a very hefty contribution each year to the Commission for the pension liability."

Yes, a contribution is made but are your accounts to IFRS standards as are the EPOs, considering the net present value of future pension obligations as a liability?

Your accounts do not display the liability represented by pensions obligations, since you farm this out to the EU by paying "contributions". This is why your 2006 accounts show zero for "Welfare benefits" in your balance sheet.

OHIM is operating largely in a cash accounting mode and it is only because the Commission picks up the tab for the long term obligations that OHIM looks in good order. The EPO does not have this luxury as the Member States hold it to a higher standard of full disclosure and accountability.

The EPO has their accounts externally auditted. I note that OHIM accounts are internally certified. Have you sought advise as to whether the accounts present a true picture taking into account the requirements under IPSAS 25 on the presentation of information concerning employee benefits?

Anonymous said...

Just think, they could have used some of that money to buy a reliable system for online filing.

Anonymous said...

It merits saying that a very significant difference between OHIM and EPO, accounting systems apart, is that, because he answers to the Commission rather than the national offices, Mr. de Boer can afford to point the finger at them. Any EPO president who dared being that outspoken would be publically drawn and quartered by his Administrative Council...

140320081103 said...

I’m sure Mr de Boer would find much easier to understand the national governments’ position if, instead of being the president of the OHIM, it had pleased God that he be the president of a small country, let’s say the Netherlands. Let Mr de Boer freely apply his housing, outsourcing, downsizing, relocating, temporary hiring and plain sacking policies for four full years, all in the benefit of the Japanese, the US and the German consumers, and then run for reelection in his own country! Unfortunately, this won’t happen: Mr de Boer’s does not have to be elected, just appointed. Thus, his personal interests lay much beyond the national governments’ ones, way up high from long term responsibilites, well away from angry voters and unemployment lines, somewhere far above low plebs where the soft carpet of the executive offices rolls for yards and yards…

An OHIM employee said...

As the head of a public institution, Mr De Boer enjoys the privilege of having a monopoly over the sale of CTMs and RCDs. Naturally, he doesn’t have to suffer any of the inconvenients of the private sector, like risking his own money, having to answer before fastidious shareholders or paying taxes. But Mr De Boer thinks he should be free as well of the tiresome inconvenients of the public sector, as depending on the politician’s decisions. I say, let’s give him the independence he wants. Let’s make the OHIM a truly independent institution, not only financially, but also politically. Long Live Wubbo I, King of Ohimstan!!

Anonymous said...

"...drawn and quartered by the Administrative Council"?
Department of Minuscule Emendations

Anonymous said...

In fact, Mr de Boer as every serious despot, has a very good knowledge of manipulating the press: has someone checked the data Mr de Boer gives to the press? The success of the CTM is of course due to a very very good economic situation. Mr de Boer has made the choice of quantity instead of quality. He has treated his staff as the public enemy. Who cares? He has sent the posts to Africa (good way to make Europe, isn't it?). He considers now the member states as a problem for his own goals (this guy is too much: no one dare to stop him!). Mr de Boer is an accident in the European construction. Well, he is the natural son of Dr Bolkenstein. Now, he has too much money, but he continues to fire people and our office is plenty of adecco rookies. Dear Clients, you have some problems with your files? no problem! pretty adecco secretary will take a decision! :-) VV De boer! money money money ♫

Anonymous said...

The possible further reduction of fees would only benefit IP agents and lawyers, who will certainly not lower their own fees...

As regards the huge surplus, it should be distributed to the EU budget for IP related initiatives, and not given back to users. The legal instruments could be adapted.

As regards staff matters, if the OHIM really wants a staff turnover, officials in Alicante should be encouraged and helped to go for some years or permanently to other EU bodies. The OHIM should work on this (creating garanties for those officials who would like to leave the OHIM for some time), and not on unrealistic and staff-threatening measures ("firing" officials and wide use of bad quality outsourcing).

Anonymous said...

Indeed, CTM money continues to pour in. There is nothing there very surprising and certainly no reason to congratulate King Wubbo Ist.
The financial results are maybe excellent, but on the human side, he has reinvented the slavery: more pressure and more stress on staff, cheap outsourcing up to Madagascar, more and more agency staff (not internal) taking decisions, etc.
What's really going up in OHIM?
Check out this new blog: http://oamilive.blogspot.com
OAMI in live, OHIM is alive!

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