Trademark law in the Benelux will change as of 1 March 2019. The changes are largely aimed at modernising and simplifying the law.
These are the most important developments:
- Previously, the law required that trademarks be presented in graphic form. As of 1 March, this is no longer a requirement. From now on, trademarks can take other forms. For example, sound marks can be in the form of an MP3 file and multimedia marks in the form of an MP4 file.
- The grounds on which a trademark can be refused have been extended. Furthermore, if you are the holder of a trademark, you can now use a broader range of grounds to object to a new trademark being registered. Similarly, more grounds can serve as a basis to have a registered trademark cancelled, i.e. struck from the trademark register.
- The "collective trademark" has been overhauled. It will be replaced on 1 March by two variants: the new collective mark (which is different to the old-style collective trademark granted before 1 March) and the certification mark. If you hold a collective mark, you must decide by 1 March by which of the two new variants you wish to replace it.
Bolstering trademark holders' rights
In addition to the changes mentioned above, trademark holders' rights have been strengthened in various respects. That said, limitations on trademark rights and means of defence against those rights have been extended.
Thus, on the one hand, the law provides for greater recourse against the use of trademarks in comparative advertising, against preparatory acts in the case of imminent trademark infringement and against counterfeit goods in transit.
On the other hand, it broadens the basis for defendants to request proof of genuine use, tightens up the conditions for referential use of trademarks, and precludes trademark holders not only from taking action against the use of descriptive signs, but also against the use of signs that lack distinctive character in other ways.
We can, of course, provide more detailed information on the practical repercussions of the changes on trademark holders. If you have any questions about these developments, please contact our Information Centre.