PROTECTION OF A TRADEMARK IN BULGARIA
According to the Trademark and Geographic Indications Act , the right over a trademark is acquired through its registration from the date of the filing of the application at the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria.
WHAT IS THE BULGARIAN TRADEMARK?
The Bulgarian law defines that a trademark can be any sign that is able to distinguish the goods or services of one person from those of others and can be represented graphically in the State Register of Trademarks.
Such signs may be words, including names of persons, letters, numbers, drawings, figures, the shape of the product or its packaging, color or combination of colors, sound signs or any combination of such signs, as well as the modern marks: positional mark, pattern of goods, mark containing movement, multimedia mark, hologram mark.
Marks that do not perform the functions of a trademark and do not meet the above definition are excluded from registration. Non-distinctive signs are unregistrable. These are those of a descriptive nature; contrary to public order and good morals; misleading as to the kind, nature, quality or geographical origin of the goods or services; which consist of or include the name or image of cultural or historical monuments, national flags, coats of arms of a given country or official organization. In practice, these criteria are known as "absolute grounds for refusing the registration of a trademark".
In addition to the above, a national mark is not registered if it is identical or with a high degree of similarity to an earlier filed or registered local mark or one with effect for the territory of Bulgaria - European Union trademark (EUTM) or international trademark, including Bulgaria. These marks are with an earlier filing date (or earlier priority) than the trademark in question, and these marks are registered or filed for identical and/or similar goods and/or services.
The same hypothesis exists when the earlier marks are intended for goods and /or services which are not related to the later Bulgarian mark, but these earlier marks have already been declared for well-known on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. In practice, these criteria are known as "relative grounds for refusal of a mark" and are not assessed ex officio by the Bulgarian Patent Office. The holders of rights over earlier trademarks are fully responsible for prosecution and/or opposition against such similar and/or identical later filed or registered marks.
Registration of national trademark
The registration of a national trade mark must be carried out in respect of specific goods and /or services in given classes regulated by the Nice Classification, and which must correspond to those goods and /or services distributed on the market by the owner of the mark. The scope of a legal protection of a Bulgarian trademark is determined by the precisely defined list of goods and/or services and the qualitative image of the sign.
RIGHTS CONFERRED BY A REGISTERED BULGARIAN TRADEMARK:
The right of a registration of a certain Bulgarian trademark belongs to the person (natural or legal) who first has filed an application for registration at the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria.
The registration of a Bulgarian trademark provides exclusive rights to its owner - to use it throughout the country, to dispose of it (transfer and licensing), as well as to forbid third parties without his permission to use in their trade activity a sign that is identical or with a high degree of similarity with the registered mark. Which in practice includes a ban on: affixing the mark on goods and their packaging; offering for sale goods with this sign, storing them for these purposes, as well as offering or providing services with a sign identical or very similar; export or import of goods with this mark, and last but not least, its use in commercial papers and advertisements.
WHO CAN APPLY FOR A BULGARIAN NATIONAL TRADEMARK?
An application for a national trademark can be filed by any able-bodied person - natural or legal - residing in the country or abroad - from a member state of the Paris Convention (PC) or the World Trade Organization (WTO)..
The applicants who do not have a permanent address or registered office in the Republic of Bulgaria are obliged to act before the Bulgarian Patent Office through an authorized legal Representative for Industrial Property, usually called a patent attorney. It is also recommended the Bulgarian applicants to use the services of a qualified patent attorney for the procedures before the Patent Office, but one who will perform them in the most professional and efficient way.
TERM OF PROTECTION OF A TRADEMARK AND TERRITORIAL SCOPE OF THE REGISTRATION
The registration of a Bulgarian trademark is for 10 years from the date of filing the application, the so-called Priority Date. The registration can be renewed indefinitely for subsequent periods of 10 years. Such renewal must be done in a timely manner, and the relevant state fees to be paid periodically
It is important to note that each one registration of an object of Industrial Property has a territorial and temporal character. In this regard, it should be borne in mind that the registered Bulgarian trademark is valid only for the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. In addition, it could be further protected by other alternative means in the European Union or worldwide. These procedures are carried out before the relevant agencies – for European Union EUIPO in Alicante and WIPO in Geneva.
WHAT ELSE WE NEED TO KNOW
The examination procedures of the filed marks before the Patent Office do not include a check for the existence of earlier, possibly conflicting rights (after the legislative changes of 2011, the examination of the "relative grounds for refusal"). This obligation and responsibility has already been transferred in full to all holders of earlier rights over objects of Industrial Property, and in particular over trademarks. The possibility of a preliminary objection against the registration of a filed trademark is called "opposition", which can be filed within 3 months from the date of publication of the trademark application. This circumstance leads to the conclusion that in order to prevent registrations of later conflicting trademarks, which may be filed by third parties or competitors in the industry, the owners of earlier Bulgarian trademarks need periodically to carry out observations (monitoring ) of their trademarks, thus receiving up-to-date information on whether to challenge such later trademarks by filing oppositions against them, within the already mentioned 3 months.
The protection of a Bulgarian trademark provided by the registration is the same as that obtained through a registered trademark of the European Union (EUTM). The same applies when a trademark is registered on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, as an international trademark under the Madrid Agreement. The trademark registration procedure before the Bulgarian Patent Office has a number of advantages over those before the European Office EUIPO in Alicante and the International Bureau of WIPO in Geneva.