On 1 July 2013 the European Union will welcome Croatia as its 28th member state. From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, the effect will be to extend the geographical scope of Community trade marks and Community designs to include Croatia.
All existing Community trade marks and Community designs registered with the Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM) before 1 July 2013 will automatically be extended to Croatia on that date. The same applies for pending applications for such rights. The geographical scope of unregistered Community designs will also be automatically extended.
Community trade marks and registered designs cannot be invalidated on the basis of pre-existing rights in Croatia. However, Community trade marks filed since 1 January 2013 can be opposed if the filing or priority date of the Croatian trade mark pre-dates the filing or priority date of the Community trade mark application, and the Croatian mark was applied for in good faith.
The use of an extended Community trade mark or Community design in Croatia after 1 July 2013 can be opposed by citing a pre-existing Croatian right (regardless of whether such right arises before or after the registration of the Community trade mark). Applications filed with OHIM after the date of accession will be subject to the usual rules on opposition and invalidity taking into account the extended scope of the EU.
Other than extending the scope of various directives and the availability of supplementary protection certificates, patents are largely unaffected by the extension; Croatia having already acceded to the European Patent Convention in January 2008.
Further clarification or guidance on the IP consequences of Croatian accession to the EU, can be found in OHIM's "Manual Concerning Proceedings Before the Office".