The European Commission will on 22 December adopt a communication proposing a "regular" and "automatic" review of trademark fees so as to ensure a reasonable "balance" at the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, established in 1994 in Alicante, Spain. Detailed proposals for an amendment of the Commission's Trade Mark Fees Regulation should come in spring 2007. The review should lead to lower trademark fees and reduce the towering reserves of the Office, which rose to more than 130 million in 2005. At the current rate of growth in the number of trademarks, and current high fees, reserves could top 375 million by the end of 2010 and nearly 700 million by the end of 2016.

The Commission has long been under pressure to propose changes and last reduced fees in October 2005. "Nobody can do anything with the money, because it is not earmarked," bemoaned one official. "The money cannot be used and just sits on a bank account. We need to change the rules to get at the funds," he added. Under the current regulation for OHIM as a self-financing EU agency, independent from the Community budget, revenue and expenditure must be balanced.

"A significant annual surplus which causes structural year-on-year increases in the accumulated cash reserves is not acceptable in the long run," admit Commission officials. The Commission has a "specific responsibility" as it sets the fee levels. The proposal on 22 December is for regular and automatic review of EU trademark fees using as a base the OHIM's financial perspectives.

"A regular fees review should be applied both in circumstances of budget surpluses...

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