On 9th of March 2010, with 19th issue of the Bulgarian State Gazette were published amendments of the Marks and Geographical Indications Act. The changes mainly affect the procedure of trade marks registration, which is being developed in the Patent Office. The new procedure corresponds to the procedure, which is being performed by the Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market – OHIM, administering the trade mark and the design of the Community and thus ensuring environment for the Bulgarian business, identical to the existing one within the EU.
More specifically, with the changes the expertise in substance procedure, performed officially by the Patent Office, based on Art. 12 of the Act (earlier rights), is deleted, and an opposition system is being established.According to the new system, the expertise of the application for registration includes only verification whether the declared sign can accomplish the main functions of a trade mark – to differentiate identical products of different manufacturers on the market (such verification is also currently performed). After the verification, the request for a mark is published in the Official Bulletin of the Patent Office.
Within three months after the publication, the owners of an earlier trade mark, as well as other individuals with earlier rights, thoroughly listed in the Act, can object to the registration by submitting a written opposition against the registration of the trade mark.When opposition is not submitted or it has been rejected as groundless, the trade mark will be registered.The new system will expedite the expertise. However, with the entering into force of the this system (on 10.03.2011) the owners of already existing rights over trade marks will have to make the necessary effort to preserve their rights by following the published applications for registration, and upon consideration that a possible registration may harm their business interests, they have to submit an opposition.
Therefore, a specific recommendation to the business is to follow the published applications, and when necessary to object to those which could interfere their market realization or do any other harm. The positive side of this is that this assessment is made by the owners themselves who are best aware of what consequences for the development of their business could have the appearance of a trade mark identical or similar to theirs on the market.In addition the applications for registration of trade marks are published every month on the web site of the Patent Office and the access to them is easy and free.
The opportunity of submitting an opposition has existed by now for the Bulgarian business in respect of trade marks of the Community, which are simultaneously effecting on the territory of all member states of the EU.
In support of the business however the Patent Office offers as a service against a certain fee a research of existing earlier rights.