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UAE Ministry of Economy update fees for Trademark Enforcement

To ensure efficiency and streamlining with international best practice, namely in trademark prosecution and the enforcement of registered rights, the UAE Ministry of Economy has issued an administrative order to decrease and waive some of the core official fees associated with their trademark registration and enforcement services.

Following an increase to such fees in 2015, the UAE Trademark Office was urged by trademark owners to consider a reform of this decision. Whilst the number of filed and examined marks has somewhat declined since 2015, this decrease can in part be attributed to the reduction of illegitimate marks filed in bad faith and those filed with intention to benefit from pre-existing rights.

The UAE Ministry of Economy has decreased and waived more than 100 nominal fees across different departments and sections, such as commercial agencies, the Trademark Office and Copyright Office. Notably, the Trademark Office has reduced its registration fees by 33%. This follows the introduction of steps to ensure the complete protection of trademark rights with the full integration of an online system for all trademark prosecution services and e-filings. This full electronic integration, operational since January 2019, has reduced the volume of administrative work for officials and has enhanced examination efficiency. On average, it now takes less than 6 months to complete the entire process of filing, examination, publication and registration of new trademarks. In the past, this time frame was considerably longer, taking approximately 12 months or more, to complete the process.

Prior to the reduction in fees for trademark registration, the applicable fees in the UAE were considered among the highest, if not the highest, in the world. As a result, officials received substantial requests to reconsider such rates and bring the cost in line with international standards. Eventually, in July 2019, decision makers at the UAE Ministry of Economy decided to adopt and publish a list of service fees to be reduced and waived relating to trademark registration, renewal inspection in enforcement of trademarks and parallel import complaints. The new nominal fee for trademark registration was reduced by 33%, decreasing the official fee for registration from AED 10,000 to AED 6,700. This move is expected to encourage brand owners to increase their protection in the UAE to cover various elements such as shapes, slogans, terms, colours and other core components of brand integrity.

Additionally, grievances or appeals before the Trademark Appeal Committee from provisional refusal or office action by examiner is now available free of charge. This used to be subject to a fee of AED 5,000.

In addition to the above, officials at UAE Ministry of Economy recognise the necessity to offer an accessible and proactive enforcement system. Therefore, a decision was made to waive the official fees associated with any request or application made by trademark owners to officials at the Trademark Office to investigate incidents of trademark infringement. Registered commercial agents in the UAE also benefited from the wavier of certain fees as they are no longer required to a pay fee to seek protection from parallel import by virtue of issuing administrative circulars to notify registered commercial agencies rights to border authorities, i.e. UAE Customs. These fees were previously mandatory following administrative enforcement action taken before the Ministry of Economy in anti counterfeiting and infringement cases and the enforcement of commercial agencies rights against grey market/parallel import shipments.

BSA is keen to see brand owners benefit from these new arrangements and urges all professionals in the IP field to partake in continuous dialogue with UAE Ministry of Economy to encourage enhanced protection which is both affordable and aligned with international standards.

For any enquiry or additional assistance in trademark prosecution, enforcement of IP rights, commercial agencies or general IP legal services in the UAE and the wider Middle East region, contact Head of Intellectual Property, Munir Suboh.

EU and Mercosur reach agreement on trade

The EU is the first major partner to strike a trade pact with Mercosur, a bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The agreement concluded today will cover a population of 780 million and cement the close political and economic relations between the EU and Mercosur countries. It represents a clear commitment from both regions to rules based international trade and will give European companies an important head start into a market with an enormous economic potential. It will anchor important economic reforms and modernisation undergoing in Mercosur countries. The agreement upholds the highest standards of food safety and consumer protection, as well as the precautionary principle for food safety and environmental rules and contains specific commitments on labour rights and environmental protection, including the implementation of the Paris climate agreement and related enforcement rules.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I measure my words carefully when I say that this is a historical moment. In the midst of international trade tensions, we are sending today a strong signal with our Mercosur partners that we stand for rules-based trade. Through this trade pact, Mercosur countries have decided to open up their markets to the EU. This is obviously great news for companies, workers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic, saving over €4 billion worth of duties per year. This makes it the largest trade agreement the EU has ever concluded. Thanks to the hard and patient work of our negotiators, this is matched with positive outcomes for the environment and consumers. And that’s what makes this agreement a win-win deal.”

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström added: “Today’s agreement brings Europe and South America closer together in a spirit of cooperation and openness. Once this deal is in place, it will create a market of 780 million people, providing enormous opportunities for EU businesses and workers in countries with whom we have strong historical links and whose markets have been relatively closed up to now. The agreement will save European companies over €4 billion in duties at the border – four times as much as our deal with Japan – whilst giving them a head start against competitors from elsewhere in the world. It also sets high standards and establishes a strong framework to jointly address issues like the environment and labour rights, as well as reinforcing sustainable development commitments we have already made, for example under the Paris Agreement. Over the past few years the EU has consolidated its position as the global leader in open and sustainable trade. Agreements with 15 countries have entered into force since 2014, notably with Canada and Japan. This agreement adds four more countries to our impressive roster of trade allies.”

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “The EU-Mercosur agreement is a fair and balanced deal with opportunities and benefits on both sides, including for Europe’s farmers. Our distinctive, high quality EU agri-food products will now get the protection in Mercosur countries that they deserve, supporting our market position and growing our export opportunities. Today’s agreement also presents some challenges to European farmers and the European Commission will be available to help farmers meet these challenges. For this agreement to be a win-win, we will only open up to agricultural products from Mercosur with carefully managed quotas that will ensure that there is no risk that any product will flood the EU market and thereby threaten the livelihood of EU farmers.”

Main features of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement:

The EU-Mercosur region-to-region agreement will remove the majority of tariffs on EU exports to Mercosur, making EU companies more competitive by saving them €4 billion worth of duties per year.

  • As regards EU industrial sectors, this will help boost exports of EU products that have so far been facing high and sometimes prohibitive tariffs. Those include cars (tariff of 35%), car parts (14-18%), machinery (14-20%), chemicals (up to 18%), pharmaceuticals (up to 14%), clothing and footwear (35%) or knitted fabrics (26%).
  • The EU agri-food sector will benefit from slashing existing Mercosur high tariffs on EU export products, chocolates and confectionery (20%), wines (27%), spirits (20 to 35%), and soft drinks (20 to 35%). The agreement will also provide duty-free access subject to quotas for EU dairy products (currently 28% tariff), notably for cheeses.

Mercosur countries will also put in place legal guarantees protecting from imitation 357 high-quality European food and drink products recognised as Geographical Indications (GIs), such as Tiroler Speck (Austria), Fromage de Herve (Belgique), Münchener Bier (Germany), Comté (France), Prosciutto di Parma (Italy), Polska Wódka (Poland), Queijo S. Jorge (Portugal), Tokaji (Hungary) or Jabugo (Spain).

The agreement will open up new business opportunities in Mercosur for EU companies selling under government contracts, and to service suppliers in the information technology, telecommunications and transport sectors, among others. It will simplify border checks, cut red tape and limit the use of export taxes by Mercosur countries. Smaller companies on both sides will also benefit thanks to a new online platform providing easy access to all relevant information.

While delivering significant economic benefits, the agreement also promotes high standards. The EU and Mercosur commit to effectively implement the Paris Climate Agreement. A dedicated sustainable development chapter will cover issues such as sustainable management and conservation of forests, respect for labour rights and promotion of responsible business conduct. It also offers civil society organisations an active role to overview the implementation of the agreement, including any human rights, social or environmental concerns. The agreement will also provide for a new forum to work closely together on a more sustainable approach to agriculture and, as part of the political dialogue under the Association Agreement, address the rights of indigenous communities. The agreement also safeguards the EU and Mercosur’s right to regulate in the public interest and preserves the right to organise public services in the way they consider appropriate.

EU food safety standards will remain unchanged and all imports will have to comply with the EU’s rigorous standards, as is the case today. The agreed food safety, and animal and plant health provisions will reinforce cooperation with the authorities of the partner countries and speed up the flow of information about any potential risks through a more direct and efficient information and notification system. In this way, the agreement will increase our efficiency in ensuring the safety of the products traded between the EU and Mercosur countries.

The trade agreement reached today is part of a comprehensive new Association Agreement under negotiation between the EU and Mercosur countries. It is composed of a political and cooperation pillar – on which negotiators already reached a general agreement in June 2018 in Montevideo – and the trade pillar. Beyond trade, the agreement will enhance political dialogue and increase cooperation in areas such as migration, digital economy, research and education, human rights, including the rights of indigenous people, corporate and social responsibility, environment protection, ocean governance, as well as fight against terrorism, money laundering and cybercrime. It will also offer increased possibilities for cooperation at multilateral level. The Association Agreement will complete the network of Association Agreements in the Americas and consolidate the relations with the important partners in the region, supporting EU positions on many global issues.

How to incorporate Bundled Services into your accounting firm

Accounting firm owners could benefit from taking the time to evaluate their accounting firm as a business. As the owner of my accounting firm, I did just that and realised some changes needed to be made, starting with bundling our services.

Many accounting firm’s follow the traditional model of accepting clients in various industries through recommendations. Others provide clients with valuable services along with business-related compliance services, but don’t highlight those.

We as business advisors would agree that best practices for any business start with an evaluation of current practices so that weak points can be identified and evaluated for improvement. When speaking with other accounting professionals, I find many have similar concerns and “pain points”:

  • We spend countless hours learning tax law, software applications and best business practices. Clients call with a “quick question” and expect an answer without a charge for the time or advice.
  • We set up a plan for “making it through another tax season” and then lose control of our process when the client is not forthcoming with the necessary information to complete the engagement in a timely manner.
  • We bill for the services provided once the engagement is complete and then may have to negotiate our fee or wait for payment until the client receives their tax refund.
  • We start an engagement and then find that there is unanticipated work to be done in order to complete the job properly. We feel we should be paid for this “scope creep,” and then we have to explain to the client why the bill is higher. In some cases, we may not be adequately compensated for this extra work. If our clients are buying our services and advice based upon our knowledge, why are we selling them time?

Our lawmakers have identified us as Specified Service Businesses, they clearly see that we have great expertise as our clients’ advisors. They have also challenged us to interpret the sweeping new laws and provided us with an opportunity to reach out to our clients and start a conversation.

What better time than now to step back and evaluate your accounting firm’s procedures and incorporate a bundled services approach into your pricing and onboarding process? This is an opportunity to redefine how you work with your clients, be specific as to expectations and get paid for your knowledge.

Incorporating a bundled pricing system will also enable you to:

  • Standardise your service offerings into packages that your clients and staff can understand
  • Give your clients what they want, in addition to what we think they need, by separating compliance work from advisory engagements
  • Lock down your fee based upon a service level, helping to eliminate scope creep
  • Get paid up-front when you start the work, thus freeing up time and creating an improved cash flow for your accounting firm
  • Enhance your clients’ experience as you take the time to discuss their concerns
  • Ease into advisory services

When getting started, remember to do the following:

  1. Develop your mission statement. I recommend that you and your staff members get together and create a mission and vision statement that is right for you.
  2. Create a business plan. When creating the accounting firm that you want rather than the one that you have, best practices endorse starting with a business plan. Just as you would recommend to any one of your clients who is evaluating their business and looking to make a change, think about the steps that you need to take in order to reach your goals.
  3. Review your current processes. I recommend you make use of an action plan to help you organise and accomplish your goals. Even though you are excited to create the accounting firm of your dreams, it is important to try going slowly at first by creating tasks you can accomplish.
  4. Evaluate your services. Are there services you wish you could offer but do not know how to initiate the conversation? Start by setting up a list of service categories — you can then identify value propositions that will “delight your clients” and create new opportunities for accounting firm revenue.

Evaluate each one of the services you provide, then review and list all the steps or processes that make up that service. Picture a typical project type, then list the services encompassed in that project. By doing so, you create bundled offers or packages of service offerings.

Your bundles will be specific to your accounting firm and either your current or target clients. Your offerings chart for individual clients may look something like the one referenced in the linked whitepaper, but can certainly be more elaborate. It can contain more lines or services to help your client understand just what they are buying.

Remember that each bundle is a set of services packaged together and each is referred to with a descriptive name that describes the level of service. If you choose to move to a bundled pricing system, you will find that new opportunities will emerge from your regularly scheduled appointments, we have.

Now, our clients call and ask for more and expect the additional services to come with a separate engagement letter and invoice. Incorporating bundled services will help you deliver more value to your clients through advisory work. In turn, you will see improved team morale and cash flow, a better overall client experience and the accounting firm you want.

JLL expands logistics advisory business with Vincia acquisition

Real estate services firm JLL has expanded its supply chain and logistics advisory platform with the acquisition of Vincia in France.

JLL acquired the French supply chain consulting business for an undisclosed sum and said the deal supports JLL’s plans to expand its industrial and logistics business and strengthen its supply chain platform by investing in markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

The deal will expand JLL’s supply chain and logistics platform which currently provides services to landlords, occupiers and developers with more than 250 dedicated experts across 18 locations in EMEA.

Established 20 years ago, Vincia specialises in helping clients in the manufacturing and distribution services sectors to enhance their performance in the areas of service, cost and quality.

The acquisition of Vincia strengthens JLL’s capabilities in the sector which follows the acquisition of logistics and supply chain firm GCL Europe in 2014.

Charles Boudet, managing director, JLL France, said: “At a time of changing purchasing behaviour and the widespread introduction of omni-channel services, the logistics and supply chain market presents new opportunities for our clients.

“This acquisition strengthens our expertise in the sector and is key to enhancing our ambitions to grow our supply chain and logistics operations in France and beyond.”

Laurent Vallas, regional director and industrial and logistics assets sponsor, JLL France, said: “The acquisition of Vincia enables us to respond to the growing market demand for supply chain consulting services.

“It is an expansion of our capabilities in the sector which follows our acquisition of GCL Europe in 2014.”

Fabrice Mattei and Pascal Querro, co-founders of Vincia, said: “We have worked with JLL for a number of years on key projects.

“These shared experiences have always delivered great value to our clients and have proven that we share the same principles and culture of excellence.”

Extension of Consultation Period

The MFSA has notified industry participants and interested parties that the Consultation period for the Guidance on Cybersecurity, issued on the 8 February 2019, has been extended to Monday 25 March 2019.

If you would like to find out more information, please visit https://www.mfsa.com.mt/

AVELLUM advises on large infrastructure financing deal

AVELLUM acted as the Ukrainian legal counsel to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (“EBRD”) in connection with a senior secured loan of up to EUR2.6 million to Negabarit-Service LLC (“Company”), a Ukrainian leader in the oversized and complex auto cargo transportations.

The loan will help financing the Company’s investment programme for the acquisition of up to 42 trucks equipped with advanced GPS systems and 18 trailers. Industrial customers across Ukraine and the EU will have access to a wider range of oversized cargo transport services following the transaction.

The new trucks will decrease the Company’s operating costs by at least 30% due to a reduction in fuel consumption and maintenance expenditure. The new vehicles will be compliant with EURO-6 or higher emissions standards, which will help decreasing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 80% and carbon oxide (CO) by 22%.

The EBRD is the largest international investor in Ukraine, which has provided almost EUR13.1 billion to fund approximately 418 projects since 1993.

The AVELLUM team was led by senior partner Glib Bondar with support from counsel Maria Tsabal and associates Oleksandra Kupriichuk and Anna Kalabska.

If you would like to get more information, please visit https://avellum.com/en