Innovation at the EUIPO: spotlight on digital tools and services

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In a major update to our regular series on innovation at IP offices, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) shares the latest developments to its cutting-edge digital tools and services, and reveals some of those planned for the future.

Over the past few years, WTR has ranked the leading 50 IP offices across the world by the non-core tools and services they offer. In that time, the EUIPO has topped the ranking nearly every year. With its collaborative approach, the EUIPO is well-known in the trademark community for its innovation-led approach to IP tools and partnerships with national agencies.

Today, representatives from the EUIPO write exclusively for WTR on the tools and services that the agency offers – and also reveals some of those being developed for 2023 and 2024. In the first part of these insights, the spotlight focuses on its digital services. 

(You can view the second part of this article here and the third part here)

Digital innovation insights from the EUIPO:

Has the office made any significant changes to its website to improve functionality and user experience in the past 12 months?

The EUIPO has focused on revamping its website for improved functionality and user experience. The recently-launched new platform boasts a fresh, accessible design and features tailored to various user groups, including entrepreneurs and IP professionals. Based on comprehensive stakeholder feedback, the website offers an integrated, cloud-based platform providing various services.

Central to the EUIPO’s Strategic Plan 2025, the new website includes significant improvements such as a better search engine, personalised content, enhanced registration process with a pre-assessment features and mobile responsiveness. Additionally, it incorporates a series of APIs and complies with Web Content Accessibility according to the technical standard ‘WCAG2.1’, created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The new website includes an API portal for secure data extraction and electronic filings, and a new generation of electronic communications for all office procedures. An advanced user area streamlines interactions between the EUIPO and its users, allowing more efficient management of IP portfolios.

Beyond the website, the EUIPO plans additional improvements and new tools for 2023, always prioritising user input to shape their platform evolution.

What are some of the digital improvements the Office has planned for the future?

The EUIPO’s 2025 Plan outlines several digital advancements designed to revolutionise its operations over the next years. A roadmap, following consultations with user associations, describes how we intend to use new technologies to make the customer digital experience more tailored, user-friendly and rewarding. Two critical initiatives include the ‘Robust Digital Backbone’ programme (which focuses on security, cloud computing, online platforms, and fee management) and the ‘Digital Evolution’ programme (aimed at establishing the EUIPO as a technology benchmark in the public sector). These programmes exploit artificial intelligence, blockchain IP registration, and data literacy to enhance business processes.

Additional initiatives planned for the future include an e-filing system for RCDs with AI capabilities and chatbot assistance, and a new system which combines dictionaries and encyclopedias to find meaning in the verbal elements of a trademark in the 23 EU languages. Customers will also gain access to pre-assessment solutions/functionalities based on the same or equivalent tools as the ones used by examiners to improve filing strategies and reduce potential application deficiencies or other problems down the line, fostering a more customer-centric approach.

Internally, E3U2- New Generation Tools is another strategic project which focuses on improving the support tools for examiners. The latest versions of these tools provide examiners with the most updated information on the files, while also flagging all relevant matters and the tools’ performance has been improved. These advancements will contribute to maintaining high quality and consistency in the handling of ex parte and inter partes cases, aligning with the EUIPO’s commitment to customer satisfaction.

Does the registry offer online filing of trademarks, and what improvements have been made to the e-filing platform in the past 12 months?

The EUIPO has been a pioneer in e-filing for many years now, not just for its own customers, but through its European Cooperation activities, in conjunction with the national and regional IP offices of the EU.

The EUIPO presently offers three routes to file EUTMs online – easy regular forms and APIs.

The easy e-filing allows users to file their trademarks in three steps: selecting the type of trademark, then the type of goods and services chosen from the Harmonised Database (HDB) and pay by credit card. All national and regional IP offices in the EU have pre-approved the terminology for goods and services contained in the HDB, meaning that any terms selected from the HDB are automatically accepted by the EUIPO. The regular form, supporting HDB and manual addition of goods and services, provides the complete set of features to apply for an EUTM with additional payment methods. A pre-assessment evaluation can be also activated to help the customer in the process.

Moreover, the EUIPO is collaborating with national IP offices offering an e-filing solution for national trademark under the European Cooperation Projects umbrella. Moreover, the EUIPO is collaborating with national IP offices offering an e-filing solution for national trademark under the European Cooperation Projects umbrella. In 2023, the Benelux Organisation for IP (BOIP) had already implemented the new Front Office 3.0, TM e-filing, with an embedded AI tool for goods and services section provided by the EUIPO. The latest version of Front Office shares the same code base as the EUIPO’s online filing.

Beyond trademark filings and search, are there other services that can be managed and completed on the registry’s web platform?

The entire lifecycle of a trademark or a design can be managed and completed through the EUIPO web portal, from filing, search, management, application for oppositions, cancellations, requesting a renewal, and now, submitting an appeal. The eAppeal tool, improved and updated in 2019, allows users to file an appeal online and for a better user experience, includes amongst others, automatic data loadings, validation checks and offers different ways to pay the appeal fee within the same application. It is also included in the User Area, which means that the user can control their entire portfolio during the lifetime of a trademark/design including the possibility to file an appeal using eAppeal directly from the User Area.

The User Area is an intuitive control panel through which you can manage your trademark and design portfolios, make payment through a current account, set alerts, and, if you are a representative, access a list of the owners you represent. The lifecycle of a trademark or design is completed with enforcement; here, the EUIPO is not involved at operational level, but it assists with data and analysis, tools and training and awareness on the importance of IP and the economic and social damage caused by its infringement.

In terms of tools, rights holders can access the IP Enforcement Portal (IPEP), a free, secure and multilingual online tool, which links them to EU enforcement authorities, and is a valuable platform in the fight against counterfeiting. Through this platform they can exchange information related to IPR infringements, protect original products by sharing information on them or file applications of action for customs to take action on their behalf.

There is also our TMview platform, a free online tool allowing users to search through more than 112 million trademarks from the national register of all participating IP offices. The same is true for its design counterpart, DesignView which now has more than 20 million designs from 76 participating offices, the latest being the IP Office of Egypt. Through the EUIPO and the participating EU offices’ common efforts, the quality of trademark and design basic information is monitored and kept at high standards. Moreover, both TMview and DesignView are upgrading the data exchange technology with IPOs in the EU using blockchain. Currently, seven offices are fully integrated and more are expected to join during the year.

Through DesignClass users can search and translate product indications to apply for design protection, and TMclass is a one-stop classification tool with 81 national, regional and international participating IP offices, available in 44 languages. Furthermore, our Similarity tool allows you to assess whether given goods and services are considered similar (and to what degree) or dissimilar, according to the participating IP offices.

To facilitate easy access to our decisions, as well as those of other relevant bodies, the EUIPO also offers eSearch Case Law. This tool provides access not only to EUIPO decisions, but also to judgements of the EU General Court, the European Court of Justice and national courts. Furthermore, the EUIPO’s current trademark and design practice and guidelines are now available in a fully navigable format, in 23 EU languages, with an advanced search function integrated earlier this year.

Does the office have an API to allow third-party software providers to access trademark application/registration data?

The EUIPO’s APIs have been centralised in one platform to let customers integrate their systems to manage their IP rights.

For those looking to submit trademark applications, the EUTM Filing API provides a game-changing solution. With this API, users can complete and validate entire trademark applications, perform cost analyses and handle various aspects of the application process, all without relying on traditional filing methods. This streamlines workflows and boosts efficiency for trademark applicants.

Among the current APIs offered by the EUIPO is the Goods and Services API, providing comprehensive functionality for checking if classification terms belong to the harmonised database. Users can retrieve classification headings and explore the complete taxonomy tree. Additionally, the API offers semantic similarity suggestions, empowering users to discover related terms efficiently.

The “ME” API serves as a central hub for users to access their trademark portfolios. This powerful tool enables stakeholders to monitor proceedings and gain valuable insights into their IP rights. Applicants and representatives can be easily searched and identified using the “Persons” API, ensuring efficient collaboration and seamless communication.

Recognising the importance of document management, the EUIPO’s Document Repository API offers a secure space for users to store and retrieve relevant files. Whether it’s attaching supporting evidence or referencing documents across different filings, this API ensures the seamless integration of documents within various EUIPO services.

Looking ahead, the EUIPO has exciting plans for additional APIs which should be released by September 2023. The forthcoming “Design Filing” API will empower users to submit complete design applications while pre-validating information and assessing costs. The “Product Indications” API will facilitate the verification of classification terms and provide operations to retrieve Locarno classification headings and search for specific product indications.

Moreover, our enhanced “ME” API, slated for release soon, promises a comprehensive user experience. It will provide a holistic view of users’ IP portfolios, including trademarks and designs, while also granting access to communications with the office and account information. This upgrade will offer unprecedented convenience and transparency for users.

Searching for images of trademarks and designs over the years has always been a challenge. To assist in trademark searches, the EUIPO’s “Trademark Search” API will allow users to search the extensive EUIPO database, retrieving comprehensive information about registered trademarks, including visual representations. Similarly, the “Design Search” API will enable in-depth searches within the EUIPO’s design database, helping users access relevant information about registered designs. The office is currently looking also into the possibility to extend APIs towards TMDS view, subject to the acceptance of participating IPOs.

With these groundbreaking APIs, the EUIPO is driving innovation, enabling third-party software providers to seamlessly integrate trademark-related data and streamlining processes for stakeholders. The availability of these APIs empowers businesses, legal professionals, and innovators to leverage the EUIPO’s wealth of information, ultimately fostering growth, creativity, and the protection of IP rights across the European Union. In the context of collaboration with WIPO the EUIPO is actively promoting the use of standards.

Has the office introduced any online services that use artificial intelligence?

The EUIPO has successfully implemented a suite of AI tools that work together to improve efficiency, consistency, and user experience.

Machine translation in eSearch Case Law breaks down language barriers by automatically translating decisions of the EU courts and the EUIPO into 23 languages, making them accessible to a wider audience. The automated translation of more than 280,000 decision documents is an achievement made possible by the use of AI, a capability that would have been inconceivable otherwise.

Image search based on AI technology has been a feature of both eSearch Plus, TMview and  a chatbot assistant gives 24/7 support to users on their basic questions related to e-filing. A second phase will include questions on the status of files, timelines for publication, and other services, and will be supplemented by support from the future EUIPO Information Centre if the relevant answer can’t be given automatically.

In the same vein, the Virtual Assistant for applicants to the SME Fund is an AI-driven chatbot providing valuable information on IP matters and business themes, while guiding unexperienced users through complex topics. In conjunction with the chatbot, Smart Search for SMEs, an intelligent search engine, helps users locate relevant content within ideas Powered for Business website, streamlining the search process.

The EUIPO is also working on increasing current AI-based services, such as the classification of goods and services; the comparison of signs; and the comparison of G&S in the area of Relative Grounds decisions, to enable users to predict the possibility of a successful registration (for example, allowing users to spot any potential likelihood of confusion).

Almost everything we do has a cooperation dimension, and our use of AI is no exception. In the context of the EUIPO’s European Cooperation projects, many of our AI tools will also be shared with EU national IP offices. We plan to make chatbots available to guide users while filing applications, and make image search available at national office level, so it can be integrated into participating IP offices’ own systems, to automate Vienna classification, or to provide preclearance information. AI tools that are already used inside the EUIPO will be adapted and integrated to the systems of any EU national IP office that wishes to use them.

On AI tools foreseen in the near future, we recommend this insightful article recently published in WTR.

Has the office introduced any online or internal services that use cryptocurrency or blockchain technology?

The IP Register in Blockchain establishes the fundamental framework for a robust distributed platform that facilitates IP services, leveraging secure, rapid, and direct connectivity between IP Offices and rights holders. As a result of this project, TMview and DesignView, the EUIPO’s two flagship search services, will provide fast, reliable, and secure dissemination of IP rights information.

At the time of writing this article, seven IP offices, specifically Malta, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Italy, Portugal, and EUIPO, have already implemented this platform by hosting a node in a blockchain network. The ultimate goal of this network is to deliver innovative and modernised services to our users. It is anticipated that by the end of 2023, the network will encompass half of the EU IPOs, thereby establishing the foremost blockchain-based IP system in the public sector. By 2025, the objective is to include all IPOs of member states.

Other than the integration of IP offices, the IP Register in Blockchain is delivering already new capabilities to TMview and DesignView. Since the end of 2022, the history service leverages the immutability of the ledger which will display how the state of the IP record changes over time. This function is already implemented by the EUIPO and the plan is to extend it to all participating offices.

A second new service will incorporate by the end of 2023: a facility to download genuine IP right certificates which have already been authenticated and timestamped on the blockchain.

In 2024, an additional service called IP Wallet will be introduced. By activating their ‘Digital Identity in the IP Office’, rightsholders will have the opportunity to obtain Verifiable Credentials for their trademarks and designs, whether they have been applied for or registered at the corresponding IP office. This functionality will allow owners to consolidate all their IP rights into a single wallet, which will serve as evidence of authenticity and ownership.

In parallel, following the EU Blockathon organised by the EUIPO in 2018, the Anti-Counterfeiting Blockathon Forum was launched in 2019, developing a use case for an anti-counterfeiting infrastructure based on the blockchain. Through the European Observatory on Infringements of IP Rights, the EUIPO is getting closer to ensuring product authenticity by creating a new ecosystem in which all parties have a common stake and an immutable bond in the blockchain.

We recently tested the viability of a prototype of a blockchain-based authentication platform in a real-world trial involving four brands, two logistics companies and a customs agency. Following this successful test, the EUIPO plans to launch an initial version by the end of 2023. Building on the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI), the new European Products and Logistic Services Authenticator (ELSA) is expected to help the authentication of products and support enforcement authorities in the fight against counterfeiting. The infrastructure will also offer the capacity to provide customs authorities with better visibility on the logistic chain than ever before. Brands could also develop and offer additional consumer services from such a powerful foundational infrastructure.

You can view the second part of this series, focused on the EUIPO’s public outreach and education efforts, here and the third part, focused on the EUIPO’s value add services, here.

To access more articles from this exclusive series on the tools and services offers by national IP offices across the world, click here.

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