Monday 27 November 2017

Thursday 23 November 2017

Venezuela: Recommended to pay official fees for trademark in good time before the due date

In Venezuela, as a consequence of the Partial Reform of the Stamp Duties Act (Article 6 of Decree No. 1398) in 2015, there has been a significant increase in the official fees for procedures for registered rights.

The Reform has also complicated the handling of payment of fees for registration, renewal and recordals of changes of ownership, changes of address and licences in the area of trademarks.

Experience has shown us that in Venezuela steps must be taken as far in advance of the due date as possible, given that payments of fees must be transferred to the account of the Autonomous Intellectual Property Service (SAPI) and once the transfer has been completed, the transfer receipt must be officially stamped. It is not uncommon to encounter extraordinary bureaucratic obstacles, which lead to delays.

Furthermore, the U.S. Government recently imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela, which also have an impact in the field of trademarks. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is monitoring transactions made in dollars to accounts in Venezuela, which can lead to considerable delays in the completion of payments. These obstacles can have significant consequences for trademark rights. If we consider, for example, the renewal procedure, in relation to which there are no provisions under Venezuelan legislation for a grace period beyond the expiry date, the payment of the official fee (which for one trademark in a single class currently amounts to 3.000 USD) must be duly confirmed by the SAPI prior to the expiry date of the trademark, otherwise it will be declared abandoned.

It is therefore advisable to keep in mind that in Venezuela, with respect to those procedures requiring payment of a fee affected by Article 6 of Decree No. 1398, it is necessary to act well in advance of the deadline.

Author: Cristina Arroyo

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Friday 3 November 2017

Indonesia becomes the 100th Member of the Madrid Protocol

On 2 January 2018, the Madrid Protocol will take effect in Indonesia. Following Thailand’s accession to the Protocol some weeks ago, this is a natural and expected development.

Indonesia joins the Madrid System having submitted some of the most common declarations permitted under the Madrid Protocol. The Indonesian Trademark Office will be able to extend the time limit for refusal of the trademark to 18 months, by virtue of Article 5.2 b) of the Protocol, and will be able to charge an individual fee for applications, subsequent designations and renewals affecting Indonesia, pursuant to the provisions of Article 8.7. The Indonesian government has also made the declaration provided for under Rule 20bis(6) of the Common Regulations, indicating that recordals of licenses on the International Register shall have no effect in Indonesia. For recordals of licenses to have effect, it will be necessary to file the appropriate recordal application with the Indonesian Office.

There are certain particularities in legal and administrative practice in Indonesia regarding the prosecution of trademarks. For example, national applications must be accompanied by a Bona Fide Statement. For the time being, the Madrid System does not appear to have developed any formula for adapting this requirement laid down at national level to the international level. Other member countries of the Madrid System have addressed this requirement by formulating an ad hoc document or including an express declaration on the international application form. It remains to be seen how the Indonesian authorities will adapt those specifications of goods/services that have been deemed acceptable by the home office or WIPO to the sui generis practice in Indonesia. Such issues will arise in day-to-day practice and it will be necessary to work closely with our network of local agents to adapt to the new situation and guarantee the best possible strategy for trademark owners with interests in Indonesia.

Author: Cristina Arroyo

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Monday 23 October 2017

Philippines – New Declaration of Actual use for maintenance of trademark rights

In the Philippines there has been an important legislative change concerning the maintenance of trademark rights. The change involves a new Declaration of Actual Use (“DAU”), as established by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPO) in Circular No. 17-010 (2017 Trademark Regulation), in effect since 1 August 2017.

It would seem that this change derives from the need to adapt Philippine trademark legislation in line with the provisions of the Madrid Protocol, although there may also be other reasons such as a desire to restrict exclusive rights from being obtained in defensive marks or perhaps even to introduce a new official fee. However, our task here is not to analyse the reasons for the changes but to explain them as simply as possible.

Up to now, to preserve trademark rights in the Philippines it has been necessary to attest to use by submitting a DAU and evidence of the use. Under the new Trademarks Act, it has been required to attest to use at different points in the lifetime of the mark:
  • By the third anniversary of the filing date of the trademark application, 
  • Between the fifth and sixth anniversary of the date of registration of the mark, and 
  • Between the fifth and sixth anniversary of the date of renewal of the mark
Circular No. 17-010 establishes an additional DAU to those already required under the existing legislation, which must be filed within one year from the date of renewal of the mark.

The requirement to submit the DAU affects Philippine national marks, international marks designating the Philippines and subsequent designations of the Philippines for international marks. If a mark has been protected through the international registration system, while the term is also one year, it is calculated from the date of renewal of the international mark.

Circular No. 17-010 is certainly complex, as it appears to indicate that the requirement to submit the new DAU will be applied with retroactive effect to marks that have been renewed since 1 January 2017, and at the same time it appears to state that this requirement must be met for all marks within one year from its renewal date.

In practice, for each trademark that is to be kept in force in the Philippines, a DAU will have to be submitted within the established term of one year from the renewal date and that same formality will have to be carried out again at each 10-year cycle during the lifetime of the registration.

In the more immediate term, those owners of trademarks which were due for renewal from 1 January 2017 will have to satisfy the requirement of submitting the DAU before the end of the one year term from the date on which the registration was set to expire. Those owners that have renewed their marks in the course of 2017 and wish to keep them in force, will have to keep in mind that they must comply with this requirement within the time limit.

This retroactive effect will not really exist in relation to international marks because the Philippines acceded to the Madrid Protocol on 25 July 2012. Therefore, the first international marks designating the Philippines will not be due for renewal until 2022. In this regard, Article 14.5 of the Madrid Protocol establishes that with respect to international registrations made under the Protocol prior to the accession thereto of the State in question, subsequent designations of protection in that State are not possible, and therefore there would not be any subsequent designations of trademarks in the Philippines that would be affected retroactively by this new requirement. In the case of international marks, it is a change to bear in mind in the longer term.

Author: Cristina Arroyo

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Tuesday 12 September 2017

Thailand joins the Madrid System

Thailand has recently deposited its instrument of accession to the Madrid Protocol and it has become the 99th member of the Madrid System concerning the International Registration of Marks. 

With the accession of Thailand, fewer and fewer Southeast Asian countries remain outside the international trademark registration system. This new accession will make the internationalization of trademark rights easier for rightholders through simplified protection strategies in a highly popular jurisdiction.

Over the past few years, Thailand has been working on harmonizing its local registration system and preparing to join the International System. For example, they have adapted their local classification of goods and services "item by item" in line with a more homogeneous application of the Nice Classification. However, in Thailand there are legal and administrative peculiarities, such as, for example, the requirement to associate trademarks belonging to the same proprietor. 

We shall see how the Department of Intellectual Property (DPI) handles the new scenario regarding international registration of trademarks.

Author: Cristina Arroyo

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Thursday 29 June 2017

Reverberations of INTA

It is extremely difficult to describe in just a few short lines the number and kind of the many different echoes of the Barcelona INTA Meeting resounding within the ELZABURU Firm, which celebrated its 150th anniversary less than two years ago. This was the first time ELZABURU has had the pleasure and the responsibility of organising a social event at INTA and thus also the first time all of us, who are part of the Firm, have endeavoured to bring together, host, and entertain so many friends, colleagues, and associates in our midst. That may be why we tried to offer them all something different, something special, something unforgettable this past 20th of May. We strust we succeeded.

Most importantly, the Barcelona INTA Meeting was also the first time our country has had the chance to host one of the largest and most far-reaching events in the intellectual property sector. What more could anyone ask?. All that remains is for us to express to the INTA Board our appreciation for the confidence it has placed in Spain; to one of our country's most emblematic cities, Barcelona, for its sunshine, its joie de vivre, its people, and its cosmopolitan vibes; and, last but not least, to all those who have been placing their confidence in the dependability, professional excellence, and forward thinking of the ELZABURU Firm.

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Author: Luis Beneyto

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Wednesday 24 May 2017

The European Union calls for a “Deluxe” decision

Through a decision dated 22 January 2014 EUIPO’s Second Board of Appeal confirmed the refusal of the application for the trademark

EU Trademark No. 011253044 (Refused)
which had been filed for a broad range of goods and services in classes 9, 35, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 45.

The reason for the refusal is that EUIPO found that the mark was devoid of distinctive character and that it merely informed consumers of the quality of all the goods and services at issue, without exception. The Office thus adopted a general reasoning in respect of all of them.

This decision was annulled by the General Court (case T-222/14 (in Spanish) which, after considering whether the Office had examined in sufficient depth the distinctive character of the sign at issue in relation to all the goods and services for which the application had been filed, held there to be a flaw in the reasoning of the Board of Appeal.

The appeal to the Court of Justice (case C-437/15P) therefore centered on the question of whether EUIPO should assess the capacity of a sign to identify a given business origin  with respect to each and every one of the goods or services, or whether, on the other hand, a global analysis of the goods or services will suffice if the Office finds them to have some relevant characteristic in common.

As we are all aware, EUIPO is under an obligation to state the reasons for its decisions, in order that the interested parties may know why their trademark is being refused access to the register and also that the courts of the EU may be in a position to oversee the legality of the decision.

When a trademark application is filed, the Office should indeed carry out an assessment of the capacity of the sign in question to distinguish the goods and services it covers. This will entail, in principle, an analysis of each and every one of those goods and services

However, an exception to this rule arises when the goods and services are interlinked in a sufficiently direct and specific way, to the point where they may be grouped in homogeneous categories. In that event the Office may confine its assessment to each of those categories.

The General Court relied on the order of 18 March 2010 (in case C-282/09P) to distinguish different categories into which the goods and services of the rejected mark could be grouped (cinema, advertising, storage and transport of goods, etc.), maintaining that they were very different in their nature, characteristics and purpose and that the Office should therefore at least have analyzed each of the homogeneous categories within the application.

EUIPO’s position, in contrast, was that if all the goods and services have a characteristic in common, which in the present case would be that they are all of superior quality, they may be regarded as forming a single category and, therefore, a general statement of reasons will suffice. The systematic repetition of the basic ground for the refusal, which is that the sign is devoid of distinctive character in respect of each and every one of the goods and services, may thus be avoided.

The Court of Justice annulled the judgment of the General Court, holding that the latter should have:

1. Checked whether the mark applied for, which comprises a word and a figurative element, could be perceived, directly and immediately, as a claim of superior quality or a laudatory message, rather than as an indication of the business origin of the goods and services. In the affirmative, the refusal of the application would be fully justified without the need for an examination of the sign in relation to all of the goods and services.

2. Checked whether the word element of the sign, “deluxe”, indeed conveyed the idea of superior quality or whether it could have a different meaning. In the latter event the mark could have a sufficient degree of distinctive character in respect of some of the goods or services. In that case an assessment of each of them would be required and different conclusions could be reached.

The Court of Justice held that the General Court had failed to appreciate that, despite their differences, all the goods and services at issue could have a common characteristic relevant to the analysis of the absolute prohibitions on registration which could justify their being grouped in a single homogeneous category and the consequent use of general reasoning in relation to them all.

The case has been referred back to the General Court and we shall therefore have to wait for a final decision on the substance. 

Author: Soledad Bernal

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