- Filing an application for a national trademark in the Republic of Bulgaria
The application for a Bulgarian trademark contains a request for registration of a trademark - the data of the applicant; the image of the mark to be registered, as well as a detailed list of the classes of goods and /or services for which protection is sought.
- Check of the formal requirements and conditions for admissibility of the trademark application.
At this stage, it is assessed whether the requirements for determining the filing date (the so-called priority date) have been met. Further consideration of the formal aspects of the national trade mark application includes: the content of the trademark application, the remittance of fee for the filing; the authorization of a patent attorney for trademarks, the list of classes of goods and /or services, etc.
The absolute grounds for refusal of registration are connected to the aspects, which determine whether the specific sign can perform the functions of a trademark. During this stage, the expert department may require some of the terms in the list describing the goods and /or services to undergo correction, reclassification and /or deletion. The compulsory correction by the applicant or his representative of these irregularities may delay the procedure for registration of the national trademark at the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria.
- Publication of the filed for preserving a Bulgarian mark and beginning of the three-month objection period (opposition)
Following the completion of the examination of the formal regularity of the trade mark application, it is published in the Official Gazette of the Patent Office. The publication of the national application for trademark contains the image of the trademark and the approved list of classes of goods and/or services.
Within three months from the date of publication of the application, any interested person has the opportunity to lodge an objection against the registration of the trademark, citing the absolute grounds for refusal.
Within the same three-month period, the holders (or applicants) of previous earlier similar and/or identical marks also have the opportunity to oppose the specific registration, citing the relative grounds for refusal. This period for possible objections is called the opposition period. It is legally fixed at three months and cannot be suspended, changed or extended.
It is important to note that the obligation to oppose a national trademark application that is identical or highly similar to previously registered and/or filed trademarks is entirely the responsibility of the holders of such prior rights. Following the changes of February 2011 in the Trademark and Geographic Indication Act, the Bulgarian Patent Office is no longer obliged to conduct an expertise in substance (material examination) for the violation of these grounds.
- Termination of the deadline for submitting opposition.
The deadline for submitting preliminary objections (oppositions) is exactly 3 months after the publication of the application for the national trademark at the Patent Office. Provided that there is no objection (opposition) against the filed trademark, an application is considered admissible and is approved for registration. It should be borne in mind that in the case of filed objections or oppositions, the registration procedure is suspended until the Office decides on the dispute, the term of which depends on many different factors. It is expected that the registration period in each case is variable and can last between 1 and 2 years.
- Decision for registration of a Bulgarian trademark.
After the end of the opposition three-month period, in which no preliminary objections have been filed against the application for a national trademark, it is determined as admissible and respectively registrable. Notifications are sent to the applicant or his patent attorney for the payment within one month's period of the current state fees for: issuing a registration number, publishing in the Official Bulletin and issuing a certificate for registration of the trademark.
This technological stage ends with the issuance of a Decision for registration of a Bulgarian trademark, in which its registration number is entered. (Reg. №). This usually happens after about 6 months from the priority date of filing the application for a trademark at the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria.
- Registration and issuance of a certificate for registration of a national trademark.
After the decision for registration of the trademark has been made by the Patent Office, follows the publication in the Official Bulletin of the already registered trademark; its entry in the State Register of trademarks, as well as the issuance of the registration certificate, which certifies the acquired property, intangible asset of the company. The owner of the already registered trademark acquires rights over a Bulgarian trademark for a period of 10 years, which runs from the priority date of filing.
- The use of the registered Bulgarian trademark
The made registration of a national (Bulgarian) trademark is not the only one for its protection. Unused trademarks are an artificial barrier for the registration of new similar and/or identical trademarks for identical and/or similar goods or services. For this reason, logically the obligation for use of the already registered trademarks is provided. There is a grace period for the owners of the already registered trademarks after their registration, during which to start their actual use. The Trademarks and Geographical Indications Act stipulates that if within 5 consecutive years, after the registration of the trademark, its owner has not proceeded to its actual use in the trade turnover on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria in connection of the goods or services for which it is registered, or if such use has been suspended for a continuous period of five years, the registration may be canceled, on demand of any interested person, unless there are valid reasons for such non-use. Thus, in practice, after the expiration of the 5-year period set by the Trademark and Geographic Indications Act, the protection of the trademark is reduced only to the goods and/or services for which the trademark is actually used, as well as similar ones. For the other goods and/or services for which the Bulgarian trademark is registered, but not used during the specified period, there are grounds for the exclusive rights over them to be challenged by third interested parties.
- The protection of the registered Bulgarian trademark.
The registration of Bulgarian trademarks is not enough for their protectection. The holders of national trademarks need to take a responsible approach and care for the protection of their exclusive rights, because they are not automatically applied by public authorities against the infringers. The use in the trade turnover or attempts to register identical or highly similar trademarks by competitors in the industry must be constantly monitored and duly protected to prevent financial loss or damage to your reputation.
The monitoring of the trademark and taking of timely and adequate measures for its protection are already obligatory in preserving the reputation of the trademark on the domestic and international market.
- Renewal of the term of protection of a registered national mark.
The term of registration of the national trademark is 10 years and starts from the priority date of filing the application for the Bulgarian trademark. The protection can be renewed indefinitely for subsequent periods of 10 years. For this it is necessary to be observed certain normatively set conditions - submitting a request according to a sample, timely paid due fees for the renewal of the trademark, and this is done before the expiration of the Bulgarian trademark. The omission of the deadline for renewal of the registration of the trademark may be corrected within a period of 6 months, which begins immediately after the end of the regular period. In these cases an additional state fee is due. It is important to note that the omission of this additional (grace) term leads to the final termination of the registration of the Bulgarian trademark. The legal protection of the registered trademark will then be terminated. This circumstance will open the possibility for any interested person to be able to use the trademark on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, without this being considered an infringement of someone's rights.