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Rights and protection

Ownership

Is ownership of a trademark in your jurisdiction determined on a first-to-file or first-to-use basis?

Trademark ownership is determined on a first-to-file basis.

Unregistered trademarks

What legal protections are available to unregistered trademarks?

Unregistered marks are protected under Articles 13 to 15 of the Law on Unfair Competition (146/1914) and are recognised as relative grounds for refusal under Article 124(3)(a) of the Trademark Law (4072/2012). Non-registered marks are territorial rights and enjoy protection only in the geographical area where they have been used.

How are rights in unregistered marks established?

Rights in unregistered marks are established through use in the course of trade. Adequate use is required; the guiding principle is that use must be substantial, systematic and continuous, preferably for a number of years. The courts rule in this respect on a case-by-case basis.

Are any special rights and protections afforded to owners of well-known and famous marks?

Under Greek trademark law and jurisprudence, famous marks enjoy a broader scope of protection – extending to non-competing goods and services – while the protection conferred to them is not conditional on a likelihood of confusion. In this respect, it is recognised that famous marks must also be protected where use of the later sign, without due cause, takes unfair advantage of or is detrimental to the earlier famous mark’s distinctive character or reputation.

The act of infringement of a famous trademark is now explicitly considered to be a criminal offence.

To what extent are foreign trademark registrations recognised in your jurisdiction?

A foreign registration used in Greece may enjoy protection as an unregistered sign. A ‘notoriously known’ mark within the meaning of Article 6bis may enjoy protection even if it has not been used in Greece.

A foreign registration may be considered to be a relative ground for refusal, as a sign will not be accepted for registration if it is likely to cause confusion with a trademark which was registered and being used abroad when the latter application was filed if the latter application was made in bad faith.

Registered trademarks

What legal rights and protections are accorded to registered trademarks?

The registration of a trademark confers on its proprietor the exclusive right to use the mark, including the right to:

  • affix it to products which it is intended to distinguish, including packaging, as well as:
    • writing paper;
    • invoices;
    • price lists;
    • notices;
    • advertisements; and
    • other printed material;
  • use it in electronic or audiovisual media; and
  • use it to characterise services provided.

A trademark owner is entitled to prevent all third parties from using in transactions, without its consent, any sign which is:

  • identical to the mark in question and used in relation to identical goods or services;
  • identical or similar to the mark in question and used in relation to identical or similar goods or services, provided that a likelihood of confusion exists, including a likelihood of association; or
  • identical or similar to the mark in question, where the mark has acquired a reputation and use of the sign would take unfair advantage of the famous mark’s reputation without due cause or would cause detriment to the famous mark’s distinctive character or reputation, irrespective of whether the sign will cover goods or services which are similar to those covered by the famous mark.

A trademark owner is also entitled to prevent:

  • the transit of counterfeit goods through Greece or the import of counterfeit goods into Greece with the intention to re-export them;
  • the affixation of a trademark on authentic goods that the owner intended to market unbranded; and
  • the removal of a trademark from genuine goods and their sale unbranded or bearing another mark.

In the case of trademark infringement, the trademark owner may seek protection before the civil and, if applicable, the criminal courts. The trademark owner may also seek protection of its marks through administrative proceedings, including the filing of oppositions or requests for revocation or the declaration of invalidity.

Who may register trademarks?

Any natural person or legal entity may file an application for the registration of a trademark, while clubs and associations may apply for the registration of collective marks.

What marks are registrable (including any non-traditional marks)?

Under Article 121 of the Trademark Law, a sign is registrable if it can:

  • be represented graphically; and
  • distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from those of another.

In particular, a trademark may comprise, among other things:

  • words;
  • names of natural persons or legal entities;
  • pseudonyms;
  • acronyms;
  • slogans;
  • designs and logos;
  • letters;
  • numerals;
  • sounds (including musical phrases); and
  • the shape of goods or their packaging.

Combinations of more than one colour can possess distinctiveness and may be used as trademarks in their own right. Even a single colour may serve as a mark, provided that it possesses sufficient distinctiveness.

It remains to be seen whether and to what extent the EU Trademarks Directive (2015/2436/EC) will influence or relax the graphic representation requirement. To date, no marks have been filed in Greece for sounds, scents or tastes.

Can a mark acquire distinctiveness through use?

A sign which is descriptive or devoid of inherent distinctiveness may acquire distinctiveness through use in transactions, except in the case of signs that consist exclusively of a shape which results from the nature of the goods, which is necessary to obtain a technical result or gives substantial value to the goods. Distinctive character will be assessed at the time of the trademark application’s filing.

On what grounds will a mark be refused registration (ie, absolute and relative grounds)?

The Trademark Office examines ex officio absolute and relative grounds for refusal.

Absolute grounds for refusal Under, Article 123 of the Trademark Law (4072/2012), the following cannot be protected as trademarks:

  • signs that are devoid of distinctive character;
  • signs that are descriptive, commonly used, customary or functional;
  • signs which may deceive the public as to, among other things, the nature, quality or geographical origin of the goods or services intended to be covered;
  • signs that are against public policy or morality;
  • signs that consist of the flags, emblems, symbols, escutcheons, signs or hallmarks of Greece or any other state covered by Article 6ter of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property; and
  • signs of great symbolic value and special interest, particularly religious symbols, representations and words.

Signs comprising geographical indications for wine and alcoholic beverages and geographical indications or appellations of origin for agricultural products are expressly exempt from trademark protection.

Finally, a trademark cannot be registered if it has been filed in bad faith.

Relative grounds for refusal A sign cannot be registered as a trademark if it infringes prior rights, such as:

  • earlier registered marks, including EU marks and international trademarks effective in Greece;
  • trademark applications, as above, subject to their final registration;
  • ‘well-known’ marks within the meaning of Article 6bis of the Paris convention;
  • unregistered marks or other distinctive signs or indications used in trade where the owner is entitled to prohibit the later mark’s use; and
  • personality rights, copyright or other rights not covered by trademark law.

Are collective and certification marks registrable? If so, under what conditions?

Greek trademark law provides for the registration of collective marks, but not certification marks, as the latter are considered to be unable to perform an origin function.

A collective mark must be capable of distinguishing the goods or services of the members of the mark’s owner from those of other entities, by reference to the geographical origin, type, quality or properties of such goods or services.

Only associations with a legal capacity, as well as legal entities governed by public law, have the right to apply for collective marks.

Collective marks can consist of a geographical indication. These collective marks do not give the proprietors the right to prevent third parties from using such signs or indications, especially third parties which are allowed to use geographical names, provided that these third parties use them in accordance with the honest practices of the trade.

The filing of a collective mark application must be accompanied by a regulation of use, which contains:

  • the title;
  • the location;
  • the purpose;
  • the name of the legal representatives;
  • a nominal list of members entitled to use the mark; and
  • the terms and conditions of the members rights and obligations concerning this use. 

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