IP, IT & Life Sciences

Consequences of Croatia’s Accession to the EU for National and Community Trademarks

Trademark right is a form of monopoly; it guarantees its proprietor exclusive rights on market. With Croatia’s accession to the EU on 1 July 2013, the advantages of an open market unfolded, which resulted also in easier trademark protection on both the national and European market via Community trademarks.

Croatia’s Trademark Law

In the neces­si­ty of har­mon­is­ing its intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty law area with acquis com­mu­nau­taire, Croa­t­ia had already made con­sid­er­able mod­i­fi­ca­tions dur­ing its pre-acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions peri­od in the area of trade­mark pro­tec­tion by enact­ing the Trade­mark Law to pro­vide the same lev­el of trade­mark pro­tec­tion as the oth­er mem­ber states. Con­se­quent­ly, pro­vi­sions on nation­al trade­marks, in the mere moment of Croatia’s acces­sion to the EU, remained iden­ti­cal to those imple­ment­ed in the Trade­mark Law. How­ev­er, the biggest change intro­duced with acces­sion to the EU, which also influ­enced the pro­vi­sions relat­ed to nation­al trade­marks, was brought by imple­men­ta­tion of the Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the sense of ear­li­er trade­mark, pri­or­i­ty, and senior­i­ty.

Community trademark effects on national trademarks

Exten­sion of Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark effects

Effects of Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark appli­ca­tions filed and Com­mu­ni­ty trade­marks reg­is­tered before Croatia’s acces­sion to the EU are auto­mat­i­cal­ly extend­ed to the Croa­t­ian ter­ri­to­ry. More­over, pro­tec­tion of all Com­mu­ni­ty trade­marks after 1 July 2013 includes Croa­t­ia as well. No new appli­ca­tions or addi­tion­al fees are required, and the Office for Har­mon­i­sa­tion for the Inter­nal Mar­ket (OHIM) does not have to issue any new spe­cial acts in this respect. Such exten­sion is uni­lat­er­al, mean­ing that the effects of reg­is­tered trade­marks in Croa­t­ia as the new mem­ber state are not also extend­ed to the ter­ri­to­ries of the ear­li­er mem­ber states.

Besides direct­ly at OHIM or via the Madrid Sys­tem, a Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark appli­ca­tion can hence­forth be  filed via the State Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty Office of Croa­t­ia.

Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark as an ear­li­er trade­mark

Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark appli­ca­tions and reg­is­tered Com­mu­ni­ty trade­marks are deemed as ear­li­er trade­marks in respect of nation­al trade­mark appli­ca­tions filed and/or nation­al trade­marks reg­is­tered after Croatia’s acces­sion to the EU, unless the nation­al trade­mark has a fil­ing or pri­or­i­ty date ear­li­er than the fil­ing or pri­or­i­ty date of the Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark appli­ca­tion.

Con­ver­sion of a Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark

The appli­cant for or a pro­pri­etor of a Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark may request the con­ver­sion of its Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark appli­ca­tion or Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark into a nation­al trade mark appli­ca­tion: (i) to the extent that the Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark appli­ca­tion is refused, with­drawn, or deemed to be with­drawn; and (ii) to the extent that the Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark ceas­es to have effect. A nation­al trade­mark appli­ca­tion that derives from such con­ver­sion has a fil­ing date or a pri­or­i­ty date of the nation­al trade­mark appli­ca­tion in an under­ly­ing mem­ber state.

Aegis of national trademark

Pro­hi­bi­tion of use of Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark

The use of a Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark the effect of which is extend­ed to the Croa­t­ian ter­ri­to­ry can be pro­hib­it­ed if it con­flicts with the use of a nation­al trade­mark acquired before Croatia’s acces­sion to the EU or with one acquired on the grounds of a nation­al appli­ca­tion filed before Croatia’s acces­sion to the EU. The pro­pri­etor of a nation­al trade­mark may request pro­hi­bi­tion of the use of the Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark in Croa­t­ia via a civ­il action but must prove that the Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark con­flicts with his reg­is­tered nation­al trade­mark.

Right of pri­or­i­ty

Con­sid­er­ing that Croa­t­ia is a mem­ber of the Paris Con­ven­tion and the Agree­ment estab­lish­ing the World Trade Organ­i­sa­tion, a per­son who has duly filed an appli­ca­tion for a nation­al trade­mark in Croa­t­ia enjoys – for the pur­pose of fil­ing a Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark appli­ca­tion for the same trade­mark in respect of goods or ser­vices that are iden­ti­cal with or con­tained with­in those for which the appli­ca­tion has been filed in Croa­t­ia –  a right of a pri­or­i­ty for six months from fil­ing the first appli­ca­tion.

Senior­i­ty

Senior­i­ty of nation­al trade­mark can be claimed in respect of a Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark: (i) if a nation­al trade­mark is reg­is­tered before Croatia’s acces­sion to the EU and (ii) if a nation­al trade­mark has pri­or­i­ty over the Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark for which senior­i­ty is claimed.

Senior­i­ty can be claimed for an ear­li­er nation­al trade­mark only if the Com­mu­ni­ty trade­mark and nation­al trade­mark: (i) have an iden­ti­cal pro­pri­etor; (ii) con­cern an iden­ti­cal trade­mark; and (iii) have goods or ser­vices iden­ti­cal with or con­tained with­in those for which the ear­li­er trade­mark has been reg­is­tered.

The legal effect of the senior­i­ty rule is main­ly con­tin­u­a­tion of the exis­tence of an ear­li­er trade­mark where the pro­pri­etor sur­ren­ders the ear­li­er trade­mark or allows it to lapse, where­as he may then con­tin­ue to have the same rights as he would have had if the ear­li­er trade­mark had con­tin­ued to be reg­is­tered.

The biggest change within the trademark law area introduced with accession of Croatia to the EU relates to implementation of the Community trademark, particularly in the sense of the earlier trademark, priority, and seniority. It has also created an opportunity for Croatia to fully integrate into the EU common market and the European professional network in the field of IP.