INTA's representative office in Brussels opened on September 16 2006, and Christina Sleszynska, now Chief Representative Officer for Europe, joined one month later. Although a number of policy issues, such as the review of the EU Customs Regulation and ACTA, have kept the Europe team highly engaged, most of that time has been dominated by the debate over EU trademark reforms, which started in 2008 and culminated in December last year with the publication of a new EU Trade Marks Directive and EUTM Regulation. But that is not the end of the work.
“The lobbying on the reform is done, but now we have the implementation of the legislation, which is a different ball game,” says Sleszynska. In particular, INTA will be monitoring the secondary legislation, which includes issues such as the elimination of the “graphical representation” requirement, which comes into effect in October 2017. It will also be examining how the new provisions on counterfeit goods in transit are interpreted, a subject on which guidance from the European Commission is expected shortly. “We don’t want to see any nasty surprises,” says Sleszynska. “We have been working with a number of European and national trade and IP associations to communicate our views in particular by way of a joint letter to the Commission.”
Another topic that is being closely followed is legislation on plain packaging. The United Kingdom, Ireland and France have adopted plain packaging legislation. Other countries, such as Hunagry, Slovenia, Norway, Sweden and Belgium are considering similar legislation. “We send comments stating INTA’s position wherever we can,” says Sleszynska. “Having volunteers in a range of countries, who can speak local languages, is a great help.”
She now leads a team of three in the Brussels office, who liaise with INTA committee members on policy issues both at an EU level and in member states. In addition, Sleszynska and her team have direct responsibility for three global committees: Design Rights, Geographical Indications (GIs) and Brands & Innovation. She says designs and GIs are now being looked at as “IP rights on their own footing” and INTA is monitoring the consultations underway on revising the EU Designs Directive and extending GI protection to non-agricultural products in Europe.
Aside from advocacy, the Europe office is looking at opportunities to submit amicus briefs in significant cases. It recently filed a brief before the EU General Court for the first time in DHL Express v EUIPO—Chronopost (WEBSHIPPING), arguing that “proper reasons” for lack of use of a trademark refer to circumstances unconnected with the proprietor rather than those associated with commercial difficulties or failure to challenge infringing acts.
The Europe office has been equally engaged internally, with a particular focus on enhancing communications and growing membership in the region. The Europe Global Advisory Council, tasked in part with advising the Association on expanding its corporate membership and better communicating throughout the region, has been particularly helpful in this respect.
Looking ahead, Sleszynska predicts that one topic likely to gain attention in the coming year is the EU Digital Single Market initiative, and in particular legislation on IP enforcement and the role of intermediaries. Proposals from the EU Commission are expected at the end of this year, and INTA is hosting a “Digital World Conference” in Brussels on December 1 and 2. Put the date in your diary: it will be a good opportunity to wish the office a happy 10th anniversary.
To keep up with Europe office activities follow @intabrussels on Twitter
Chief Representative Officer, Europe
Tel: +32 3 880 3720
Representative Officer, Europe
Tel: +32 2 880 3722
Advisor, Europe Office
Tel: +32 2 880 3721
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