Sustainability and trade marks

Maria Miguel Carvalho (Associate Professor with Habilitation, School of Law, University of Minho, Portugal. Director of Research Centre for Justice and Governance, School of Law, University of Minho, Portugal)


The importance of intellectual property [IP] in the pursuit of goal 9 of the 2030 Agenda (build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation) is often mentioned and, upon the initiative of the World Intellectual Property Organization [WIPO], was already the leitmotif of the World IP Day in 2020 (“Innovate for a Green Future”)[1], although for the most part only patents and utility models are mentioned. However, due to a growing awareness on the part of consumers [the “green” consumers (LOHAS consumers)][2] on the impact of their choices, in recent years the role that trade marks might play in this domain is also emerging[3] (e.g., the 2022 MARQUES Annual Conference theme: “Celebrating marks: How sustainability and technology will shape the future of brands”).

Trade marks are distinctive signs of products or services that provide relevant information to consumers. They can therefore play a highly relevant role concerning, in particular, the increased choice of products or services distinguished with “green” signs, and thus also encourage companies to adopt (more) sustainable practices. Companies, aware of this fact, have been increasingly adopting the so-called green branding, which consists in using trade marks that suggest that the products or services they indicate are environment-friendly (green marks, eco marks), for example, because they are recyclable.

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The Regulation on EU trade mark

by Maria Miguel Carvalho, Collaborating Member of CEDU


The creation of a community trade mark law by Regulation (EC) n. 40/94, of 20 December 1993, in parallel with the protection that trade marks can benefit from at the national level, achieved a massive success as over 100.000 community marks were registered per year. This success was enhanced because their acquisition by any person (natural or legal, including public entities) through a single registration procedure before the OHIM was allowed as well as it assured a uniform protection and produced the same effects in all European Economic Area.

However, after more than 20 years of its approval, and notwithstanding the entry into force of Regulation (CE) n. 207/2009, of 26 February 2009, on the Community trade mark (TMR), which repealed the first one, a reform was needed in order to make the register system more accessible and efficient to the companies – reducing costs and complexity and raising rapidness and legal certainty. Such changes took place with the approval of Regulation (EU) 2015/2424 of the European Parliament and the Council, of 16 December 2015.

This Regulation constitutes – in line with the Directive (EU) 2015/2436, of the European Parliament and the Council, of 16 December 2016 – the largest and most important alteration to the European trade mark system, having significantly modified the Regulation (EC) n. 207/2009, of 26 February 2009.

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