Weekly take: Time for EUIPO to decide its leadership future
Behind the sensational headlines on Christian Archambeau’s directorship there is still an IP office to run, and confidence in its effectiveness is key
By now, many of you will have digested yesterday’s exclusive news that the EUIPO has suspended key administrative powers held by its executive director Christian Archambeau.
From now until the end of his term in October, Archambeau will no longer be able to authorise contracts on behalf of the EUIPO and exercise other key powers.
The decision was taken after Archambeau filed a claim for compensation over the non-renewal of his contract. He is seeking compensation worth €400,000 ($426,000) in lost earnings and €75,000 in damages.
The current state of this sorry affair is that we now have an executive director in all but name.
In fact, my colleague Rory O’Neill (who has been leading this coverage) and I were due to interview Archambeau this morning, March 8, but the interview was cancelled by his team late last night.
There were no official reasons provided, but if interviews with journalists are no longer taking place and other powers have been stripped, you have to wonder how much influence the executive director now has.
Minding the shop
I’m reminded of a story I covered in a previous role about a major law firm that collapsed into administration.
When I was investigating the reason behind the collapse, one former partner told me the firm had operated without a managing partner for six months.
“How can a business run for six months with no managing partner?” they asked. “Who was minding the shop?”
I’m not suggesting that the EUIPO is on the brink of collapse, but clearly some form of stability and leadership is needed – especially when you consider that it is one of the largest and most important IP offices in the world.
Whisperings of disputes between director and staff and of ever-increasing tensions are great for journalists but not so great for business.
October, which is when Archambeau was due to step down, is still seven months away. And after a difficult 2022, in which EU trademark filings dropped for the first time since 2008, the office needs confidence – and quickly.
The reasons for Archambeau's failure to secure an extension to his mandate are outlined here, but the dip in filings was a significant factor.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that both Archambeau and other practitioners have pointed out that factors beyond the EUIPO’s control, such as an economic downturn and war in Ukraine, also contributed to the dip.
In the meantime, either Archambeau and his opponents should agree to temporarily down weapons and resolve their differences until a successor is found, or he should resign now and let a temporary director take charge.
I make no comment on which would be the best option – and indeed on who is best placed to take charge come October – but if things continue as they are then we could be in for a long seven months.
Time for a decision. Either muddle on through or look to the future now.