The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market: Creating a 21st Century Public Agency
Jane E. Fountain,
Director, National Center for Digital Government and Professor of
Political Science and Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Raquel Galindo-Dorado, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid
Jeffrey Rothschild, NCDG Fellow, University of Massachusetts Amherst
The National Center for Digital Government is researching the
management innovations implemented at the Office for Harmonization in
the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante Spain. A major deliverable of
this project is a public management case study, which is available for
download as an NCDG working paper.
ABSTRACT: Wubbo de Boer and his department directors, his top
management team, prepared for critical meetings of the
Administrative Board and the Budget Committee in the winter of 2010.
The European Union’s trademark and design registration agency in
Alicante, Spain, grandly named the Office for Harmonization in the
Internal Market (Trade Mark and Design) (OHIM), had exceeded all
expectations for the establishment of the Community trade mark (CTM)
and the Registered Community design (RCD). The new agency also could be
proud of impressive achievements in productivity and transparency since
it began registering trademarks in 1996. Through productivity gains,
the agency had reduced the fees companies paid to register trademarks
and designs by about 50 percent between 1996 and 2009. Through
innovative use of e-business tools and web-based information, for more
than a decade OHIM managers and staff had worked to transform and
simplify the processes used to examine and register trademarks and
designs, completely automating many steps in these processes. They had
provided powerful information tools for their “users,” OHIM’s term for
the individuals and firms that interact with the agency, and for
internal OHIM examiners to increase efficiency and reliability of
decision making. They had surveyed users and
worked closely with them to develop performance measures and service
standards that would in turn challenge OHIM to continuously improve its
service in terms of timeliness, quality and accessibility. They had
even challenged deeply held attitudes and norms of the permanent civil
service by building flexibilities including telework into workforce
practices in Alicante and by efforts to rigorously examine working
methods to improve productivity.
Yet many of their principal stakeholders seemed uninterested in—in some
cases, opposed to—these developments. Each Member State in the European
Union (EU) had its own national trademark and design registries and
relied on fees to support its own national agency. Some Member States
perceived the CTM and RCD to be sources of competition to national
trademarks and designs. Some of the newer EU Member States had
trademark and design registration offices whose revenues went directly
to the state budget; thus those agencies exercised little budgetary
authority or autonomy. Fee reductions for the CTM faced fierce
opposition because lower fees were viewed as making the CTM even more
competitive. Moreover, a steep economic downturn in Europe beginning in
late 2008 exacerbated tensions as states sought revenue. The European
Commission (EC) was responsible for the delicate task of balancing
national and Community interests as it sought to deepen harmonization.
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and Disclaimer - This material is based upon work supported by the
National Science Foundation under grant numbers 0131923 and 0630239.
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this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).