After seven years of negotiations, Croatia is on course to join the EU in July 2013. The accession treaty has been signed and now needs to be ratified by the other EU countries.
This will make Croatia the 28th country to join the EU, following Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. Macedonia, Iceland, Montenegro and Serbia are all in negotiations to join the EU too. Turkey has not yet been granted permission to join.
All EU countries are covered by the Community trade mark and design systems in Europe, the coverage extending automatically whenever a new country joins. This applies not only to new trade mark and design applications, but also to existing trademark and design registrations.
Confusingly, the European Patent System does not directly correspond to the EU member countries, but already covers European countries beyond the EU, such as Turkey and Iceland for example. Major changes to the European patent system are also in discussion, which should result in significant cost savings for NZ businesses.