Cooperation Fund (CF)
European Union Intellectual Property Office

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
All across the EU’s Internal Market, 26 million active businesses – including 22 million SMEs – are working to grow, to build up their niche in the marketplace, and to sustain and generate employment. And many of them choose to safeguard the results of their innovation and creativity with intellectual property (IP) protection. IP supports jobs and growth. More than half of all EU industries in which those 26 million enterprises operate are considered IPR (intellectual property rights) intensive. 35% of all EU jobs are directly and indirectly generated by IPR-intensive industries, and those industries generate 39% of the EU’s GDP. Intellectual property rights, in particular trade mark and design protection, are administered in the EU by the network of national and regional intellectual property offices in each Member State. Together with the EU Agency set up to administer EU-level unitary trade mark and design rights (the European Union Intellectual Property Office), they form the European Trade Mark and Design Network (ETMDN). The national, regional and European IP offices are vital actors in the IP lifecycle, and guardians of the IP system for users. They administer and manage valuable intellectual property rights for hundreds of thousands of businesses and individuals every day. But in 2010, when the ETMDN was formed, the IP landscape across the EU was still uneven. Although legislation had been harmonised among the then 27 Member States, in practice, delays, complexity and unnecessary differences of practice between the various trade mark and design registration systems in Europe presented a serious obstacle to innovation and creativity. SMEs in particular were affected; the smaller the business, the fewer resources it has to dedicate to IP protection and the enforcement of its IP rights. And small budgets and limited resources in many national and regional IP offices meant that they simply could not afford to update their systems and processes to provide user-friendly services, geared towards small as well as large businesses, to enable them to obtain their protection quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. In 2010, users could not file a registration at all in 12 EU Member States. Six IP offices had no back office systems at all, and 11 IP offices used back office systems which dated from the 1980s. The filing and registration system was wildly different across the EU; Danish users, for example, could do all their business online, whereas in Greece, registration details were written in a book, which was stored in the office library (and which had to be checked by hand every time a registration was sent in). Even searching for a trade mark, to find out if it had been previously registered, came at a prohibitively high cost for many firms, especially small ones. A thorough online search could cost up to EUR 2000. Alternatively, an agent could be hired to visit every office in Europe to obtain the search information, at an equally high, and sometimes greater, cost. The time was right for change.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
European at its heart, and driven by a shared desire to improve the intellectual property landscape in Europe for all users – big businesses, small businesses and even individuals – the Cooperation Fund was created to be the vehicle for wholescale change. It was driven and sustained by the shared commitment of national and regional EU IP offices, users and EUIPO, and entirely financed by the latter.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The Fund was based on three solid goals: IP modernisation; IP harmonisation and IP enforcement. EU national and regional offices mapped the existing IP landscape, analysed the areas of greatest need, and came up with a list of tools and services that they knew would directly benefit their users. The total budget of EUR 50 million made it the single biggest initiative ever funded by EUIPO, and one that was firmly directed at the end users of the IP system in the EU. The aim was to create a set of tools that could work inside, and also eventually outside the EU, in developing economies and third countries (SDG10). The tools and services had to be easy to use for IP professionals, national and regional office staff and users of the system alike. They had to be multilingual. They had to be sophisticated enough to provide a state of the art service, but they had to be agile enough to work across different interfaces, systems and browsers. The tools and services spanned the intellectual property lifecycle. Vast quantities of trade mark and design registration information (over 40 million trade marks and 10 million designs) were aggregated and placed into two powerful, free, online databases – TMview and DesignView. Public information on trade marks and designs which had hitherto been expensive and difficult to obtain was now available for anyone who wanted it. The difficult task of classifying goods and services, necessary to obtain a trade mark in the first place, was simplified and streamlined with another free online tool, TMClass, which today has more than seven million searches a year, based entirely on public information. The days of trekking from office to office to search registers were over. Within the IP offices, change was well underway. A full trade mark e-filing system, complemented by a full design e-filling system, was developed and rolled out across the ETMDN. A powerful e-Services package, allowing users to manage their trade marks and designs complemented the two systems. Underpinning it all was a powerful back office, which was integrated into the implementing office’s own systems. Today, it has never been quicker and easier to file a trade mark or a design, at national, regional or European level, within the EU. It can be done online, quickly, cheaply and easily, through reliable and user-friendly technology. Behind the scenes, the capacity of national and regional trade mark and design examiners, who are at the front lines of the IP system in the EU, has been increased too. Services like the Seniority database and the Common Examination Support Tool help them work more efficiently and effectively, and standardise and modernise processes in the participating offices. The Fund supported enforcers too, in their fight against IP infringements, which disproportionately affect SMEs, by developing tools to allow enforcement agencies and businesses to share information safely and securely. What the Fund has delivered is parity of access for users across the EU, opening up vast swathes of trade mark and design-related public information and bringing the least resourced and least modernised offices up to par with the best resourced and the best modernised, all with users in mind. Indeed, every single EU Member State participated in the Cooperation Fund, and so, every single Member State has passed on the benefits of the Fund to national level users.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
From the outset, the CF was a bottom-up initiative based on a true spirit of solidarity and cooperation. The innovative approach of the Cooperation Fund was that the network was at the heart of the initiative. In fact, the CF helped IP offices move from competition to coexistence and ultimately, towards complementarity. By creating partnerships between national public services, private sector and civil society, EUIPO created an IP network based on common “principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals” (SDG 17). Workshops brought together professionals involved at national, regional or local level to learn from each other but also to create a sense of professional community, going beyond the usual national frameworks. Moreover, a progressive achievement of an interoperable and collaborative European network of trade mark and design offices helped create a stronger IP environment in Europe. EUIPO formed active working groups pulling important resources to deliver results. Rather than the countries implementing the results themselves on the basis of grants, EUIPO designed the implementation together with stakeholders, to then implement the strategy hand in hand. New synergies between offices were created as participating countries assisted each other in putting the new tools in place.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Cooperation Fund was implemented by the European Trade Mark and Design Network (28 national and regional EU IP offices), plus user associations, other international organisations (including the European Patent Office and the World Intellectual Property Office), and the European Union Intellectual Property Office, (EUIPO) a decentralised agency of the EU. The Cooperation Fund was financed by EUIPO, to the tune of EUR 50 million. The Fund was project based, with each project being supported by a working group made up of users and EU national and regional IP office experts. In terms of the size of the population affected, the Fund’s remit was to support each and every user of the intellectual property system in the EU, plus the wider intellectual property community, such as enforcers, policy makers, researchers and other interested parties.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Building these advanced tools and rolling them out across the EU has involved more than 100 000 person days of effort, including EUIPO staff, consultants, staff from IPOs and 11 user organisations. During the peak development phase for the tools, the work of up to 250 people (40 from EUIPO, 80-90 from IPOs and the remainder from contracting companies), either full or part-time, was coordinated under the CF. The CF has delivered throughout its life, on time and on budget. Close cooperation via technical work, inter- organisational staff exchange and focused teamwork on specific projects has shown that governments and IP authorities across the EU could work together to support each other, promoting IP protection and transparency for all users, wherever they are. The various working groups guided project teams composed of experts and consulted companies. This meant that every six months, EUIPO invited experts from public services or companies to attend a sustained week-long workshop together with the technicians and the architectural experts who either built the tool or developed its design. On average, EUIPO invested €1.88 million in IT projects for each IPO within the CF. Each IPO designated several of its staff members to the development and implementation of the projects. The deployment of project managers in IPOs has been an important component in the success of cooperation efforts. It maximised the number of successful implementations of the different CF tools, and contributed decisively to the modernisation of the IP system in Europe. The companies hired to implement the different tools were either hired by the National IP Offices and then partially reimbursed by EUIPO or directly contracted by the Office. The maintenance process for the common tools was launched in 2013 and around 50 requests for change have been proposed by the IPOs and EUIPO, 17 of which are already in production. 2013 marked the peak of the CF’s activity, with an estimated 280 EUIPO staff members working on it full time. In 2014, the way in which the offices worked together on the development of the Software Package tools improved as a result of a number of initiatives leading to an increase in resources deployed in offices, as well as an enhanced focus on technical consistency in order to help IPOs with implementation. Participants also developed procedures and working methods to facilitate the recording and exchange of information through a change management platform. The practice of holding on-site workshops lasting several days in the IPOs was extended based on the experience gained in 2012 and 2013, and more than 100 of these took place in 2014. A large part of the CF efforts were still concentrated in 2015 on the Back Office project for the management of trade marks and/or designs, which 10 out of 12 offices (Benelux, Estonia, Greece OBI & GGE, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, and Finland) put into production in 2015, with other offices (Romania and the United Kingdom) in the process of doing so. By the end of 2015, 17 offices had put these solutions for trade mark applications into production, and 15 offices had also done so for designs. E-services had been implemented by 15 offices. This was a significant change in the IT landscape across the network. Prior to this, only 13 offices of the network had trade mark e-filing and only 9 had e-filing for designs.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The Management Board, created to advise its progress, and its emphasis on collaborative, cooperative working with partners, was a real engine of change at the heart of the European Trade Mark and Design Network. Public services were not represented on this Board. The board directed and advised on the projects and occasionally took part in missions. These members of the Board were meant to be either neutral or critical of the project so that any mistake or misguidance would be quickly flagged. The design of the initiative was geared by Heads of IP National Offices and 11 user associations. The implementation of the initiative was achieved by relevant civil servants; representatives of WIPO, EPO; parent Ministries of the IP National Offices; major companies at both national and international level and user associations that represented them; in some cases, local companies; NGOs including a couple of universities; and 20 to 30 companies involved in implementing different parts of the initiative. Stakeholders were at the heart of the Cooperation Fund. User representatives of European and international user associations were involved in all of the working groups for all of the projects and from the very beginning. By keeping users at the centre of the project activities, the Office and its partners ensured that the projects they carried out together created value for the IP rights owners.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
2015, 19 tools had been built collaboratively, covering the entire trade mark and design lifecycle, and with a level of uptake across the EU that exceeded all projections, passing 370 IP office implementations in 2015, compared to the initial projection of 140 implementations when the CF was launched. The collaborative work deployed reflects the SDG 17, which supports the target of enhancing global partnerships, and promotes effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships. TMview is one of the flagship tools developed under the Fund. This database contains over 40 million trade marks from 53 offices, including all EU IP offices and many of the most important non-EU economies. It is used as a tool of reference with more than 7 million searches per year and it is the first ever European pre-clearance tool, allowing the user to search simultaneously national, Community and international trade mark registrations, online and free of charge. DesignView, also developed under the Fund, is the first multi-office search tool on designs ever developed by an IP office. This database contains more than 9 million designs from 47 offices and is used more than 700 000 times each year. Finally, 58 offices, including all the EU IP offices, have integrated their Goods and Services database lists in TMClass, which now attracts almost 7.5 million searches per year. The CF’s initiatives have had a clear economic benefit: €48.5 million in estimated economic benefit for both end users and IPOs delivered by the CF tools in 2015, of which it is anticipated that €21 million will be recurrent benefits generated on a yearly basis. By 2015 more than 360 implementations had already taken place all over the EU- way more than the initial 140 foreseen. These results support the SGD9 to develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.” In fact, it was estimated that end users saved €20.988 in trips and time as they no longer needed to physically travel to their national intellectual property office. In this context, the CF also supports the SDG8 as it allows increased levels of economic productivity through technological upgrade and innovation.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
EUIPO had to grasp the complexity and challenges that came with working with IPOs of different national backgrounds, contexts and objectives. Many had different perceptions of IP from their national governments, different practices or regular changes of government. A previous attempt to work with national and regional intellectual property offices had been made by a European organisation similar to EUIPO, but which failed, engendering a sense of scepticism which still persisted when EUIPO first approached the offices in 2009. Much effort had to be made to overcome the prejudices of working together as one through the organisation of workshops, a core part of the Fund’s working mechanism. In addition, very little contact existed at the time between national and regional offices themselves, and between national and regional offices and EUIPO. Building trust and cooperative working took time. But the Fund’s achievements are testament to the professionalism, commitment and focus on end users that is the hallmark of each and every IP office in the EU. Another obstacle was the different circumstances of offices at national and regional level. Some IPOs were independent (and self-financing) while others were part of a ministry. EUIPO developed different funding mechanisms in different cases, and worked hard to build project management capacity at national level where necessary – a theme that continues today.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Involving users on an equal footing with offices, and operating on a totally transparent basis with an external management board, publishing detailed project documentation and communicating widely, the Cooperation Fund worked to remove institutional barriers to communication and services among IP offices, users and public authorities. The tools created in cooperation between IP offices and user organisations have achieved very broad uptake and use, and are making the EU trade mark and design system more transparent, interoperable, efficient and user-friendly. Now users can look for trademark and designs in the click of a button with TMView or DesignView and file a registration online anywhere in Europe. The Cooperation Fund has improved user experience by helping modernise the trade mark and design system in the EU. There are numerous examples of Member States that have taken advantage of the Fund to enhance the operations of their national IPOs. Before the Fund, only 13 EU IP offices had trade mark e-filing solutions; as a result of the Fund, all EU offices now have such solutions, 17 of which were developed under the Fund. For designs, before the Fund came into being, only nine offices offered electronic filing for design applications, while so far, all EU IPOs except three have such facilities with 15 offices using the CF design e-filing solution. An OECD study has shown that regulatory costs per employee, can be five times higher for small companies than for larger firms. SMEs present great potential for economic growth in Europe. Hence, the Fund enabled European SMEs to innovate by improving framework conditions and further reducing the administrative burdens, creating reliable, easy-to-use, electronic tools to simplify, speeding up and improving accessibility to the services offered by IPOs, and by converging practice and procedures among the various offices as far as possible (SDG9). The Fund has been closely measured and monitored as part of the EUIPO’s own internal quality standards and through the oversight of its Management Board.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The Cooperation Fund allowed for IPOs to upgrade the standards of their public services in many ways. 96% of IP Offices considered that their image has improved due to the implementation of Cooperation Fund tools. The projects provided: o Clarity and transparency: Shared communication initiatives keep stakeholders informed of advancements in a timely manner, with unified information. 96% of IP Offices considered that the implemented tools have contributed to an increase in transparency of their Offices. Lithuania and Romania are the IPOs that recognised the most the contribution of CF tools to the transparency of their IP Offices. o Quality and usability: effective and efficient access to protection offered by registration systems both at the national and EU level. o Legal certainty: increased legal certainty due to greater consistency in decisions made at national and EU level. o Time and cost savings: potential reductions in application processing times and cost savings for both IP offices and applicants. 371,900 hours have been reported by IPOs as internal annual time savings achieved thanks to the implementation of TMview, DesignView, TMClass, BackOffice and Forecasting tools. Making IP systems more consistent, coherent and transparent was vital if IPOs were to become more accessible to users, and in particular to SMEs, which can find unnecessary differences in processes and practices a significant deterrent when they seek to expand. An OECD study has found that compliance costs per employee are five times as high for small companies as they are for larger ones. Given that the vast majority of EU companies are SMEs, reducing the administrative burden on them in all areas, including IP protection, was of great importance. Moreover, every euro transferred to IPOs was subject to an evaluation committee, onsite verification, a European Court of Auditors impact, and a defined standard of proof. IPOs scored an average satisfaction level of 7.4/10 regarding the implemented tools.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Not applicable.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   European Union Intellectual Property Office
Institution Type:   Public Agency  
Contact Person:   Vanessa Witkowski
Title:   Communication Officer  
Telephone/ Fax:   +34 965 13 8544
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Av. de Europa, 4
Postal Code:   03008
City:   Alicante
State/Province:   Valencia

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