ECTA, DAY TWO: on Changes and BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals)

The day started with welcome speeches given by ECTA’s President, Mr. Mueller, Dubrovnik’s Deputy Mayor Mr. Raguž, Mrs. Kauterovac, Director General of Croatian IPO and the organizing Committee, led by Mr. Vukmir.

Next, the keynote speech gave us a perspective from a different, entrepreneurial point of view. Mr. Emil Tedeschi, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Croatia talked about the growth of his business empire and the importance of brands and trademarks. He said that the competition is so enormous that even if titans like Nestle ceased to exist, it would not make much difference in the world. So how did a small company from Croatia that started with tissue papers grow into a regional distributor of companies like Mars, Johnson & Johnson, Duracell and Wrigley’s? The first commandment is to know your market and competitors, and do not fight lost battles. There is no shame in quitting, if your competition is too strong and you would finally end up at a loss. Connected, it is very important to know what distinguishes you from the others. It can be competitive production prices or uniqueness of your product, but the focus should be on that characteristic. And finally, branding is key. It is not just about the quality of the product itself, it is about the whole package, making your product as recognizable as it can be. An example was Cedevita, a famous Croatian vitamin drink. As it was considered as an old-fashioned and outdated product and everyone crossed it out as a thing of the past. Mr. Tedeschi rebranded it and created and patented a special unique bottle cap, making the old brand stronger than ever.

Next, we got an overview of novelties in IP world. Firstly, EUIPO’s Executive Director Mr. Campinos gave us an overview of EUIPO’s work and latest changes. It is fascinating to know that 35% of EU workers work in the IP-strong industries, and this business makes for 90% of EU export. Also, we got a short report on results of researches conducted in cooperation with other international bodies. Currently, EUIPO is facing a noticeable rise in applications, which counts 11% in 2015, and 15% in the first months of 2016. What EUIPO is hoping to achieve is better quality service with e-filing, fast track applications and constant updating of their Guidelines for their employees. Also they are hoping to continue nursing current collaborations and working on European Patent, Digital Market, Geographical Indications…

After this, we got an update on EUTM Report Implementation by Dr. Michael Koenig. He talked about secondary legislation and transposing the Package into national laws. It will not end there, implementation workshops with Member States will also be held. He then talked about EU IP policy beyond Trademark Reform: evaluation of Design legislation, Geographical Indications for non-agricultural products, SME package (mostly focusing on patents) and the IP Chapter of the Single Market Strategy.

Then, it was WIPO’s turn. Mrs. Valdimarsdòttir talked about news considering Madid and Hague Agreements. The main point made about the Madrid Agreement was its constant growth in accession. Every year they get new signatories and the next focus will be on Latin America.  Also, they are marking a staggering growth in application numbers: 25% in the USA and EU, 30% in Australia and 40% in India. On the gloomier note, Madrid International Registrations Information System (MIRIS) was mentioned. Although it started with a bang, there are a few issues with the system to work on.  The biggest novelty with the Hague System was that US and Japan joined in 2015, and it has been proven that WIPO’s system is easier and faster than the domestic ones.

Finally, Marc van Wesemael of EURID gave us low-down on latest efforts concerning .eu domain. He introduced us to the marvelous term BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) and said that theirs was is full trustworthiness. Luckily, they have more than a few good ideas on how to achieve this. Firstly, correct registration is crucial. Currently, they have a manual check of suspicious registrations, but an automatized one would be a lot more efficient, and they are working on algorithms to achieve it. Also, they have an idea of collecting review data from various sites and creating a general “trust score”. They are planning more collaborations, just like the latest one, created on 23. June 2016 with EUIPO. From now on, when a registered domain is similar to an existing one, the information will be directly sent to EUIPO, because of the likeliness of a parallel trademark infringement.

The rest of the day was reserved for European Trade Mark Legislative Package. There were presentations on the absolute and relative grounds for refusal by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Annette Kur and Dr. Andreas Renck. There was a lot of talk about the deletion of the requirement of graphical representation, and the common opinion is that, although sound and motion trademarks will benefit from it, other types of trademark will probably not be as impacted as they should have been. Also, position trademarks are continuing to be a prickly topic. Some would argue if they should be a special type of trademark, and if yes, how should they be represented. The other changes in trademark system involve the special relative ground for PDOs and PGIs, mandatory national administrative opposition and cancellation proceedings…

The novelty with filing process is that it now includes the countries of the EEA, not just the EU. When it comes to the examination, the prohibition of voluntary disclaimers is new. Also, third party observations have become more efficient: now they can be expressed at any point of registration process, and even can lead to reopening of the examination.

When talking about company name defense, the new Package specified that only a natural person should never be blocked to register a TM if the trademark equals his name. This presentation tackled intervening rights too. This is relevant for “dormant rights”, which are registered, but unused trademarks. Now, this defense method is allowed for national trademarks too. Changes in this practice will add to legal certainty and put a stop to old strategies, like acquiring an earlier unused trademark.

Final part of the session was on Anti-Counterfeiting and Enforcement. First, Mrs. Sylvie Harding from Chanel talked about storage and destruction costs, followed by Mr. Ninoslav Babić of Croatian Customs Directorate. He explained Croatian Customs’ strategy. It does use EU Guidelines, but trying to be as proactive as possible, with a focus on copyright infringement. He enriched his presentation with their real-life examples and experience. The last speaker of the day was Mrs. Nicole Semjevski of EUIPO, who introduced EDB, Enforcement Database. It is a platform build on TMview and Designview, in order to help enforcement authorities to distinguish original goods from fakes. What makes it different is that it allows manufacturers themselves to upload data on their products.