The Republic of Croatia has acceded to the European Union (EU), becoming one of the 28 EU member states, alongside Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
From an Intellectual Property perspective, this is a welcome development for Community Trade Mark (CTM’s) and Registered Community Design (RCD’s) proprietors, given that their rights were automatically extended from the date of accession, 1 July 2013, to include Croatia without the need for further fees or administrative formalities.
New applications for CTM’s and/or RCD’s will now automatically cover Croatia as well. The details of these applications will also be published in Croatian in addition to the other official EU languages.
However, there are certain dangers to CTM and RCD right holders which could arise out of the accession. For example: the expansion of the EU increases the chances that a CTM may be inherently unregisterable as the Croatian language may cause descriptiveness objections which would possibly not have arisen before. A proprietor of a Croatian national right (ie a National Trade Mark) could also prohibit the use of an extended CTM or RCD in Croatia, if the date when the Croatian proprietor applied for these rights preceded the date of the accession, provided that the rights were acquired in good faith.
It is therefore advisable to consult a trade mark practitioner in order to ensure that your CTM’s and/or RCD’s are fully enforceable in the EU.