European Union Enlargement and Community Trade Marks
On 1st May 2004, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, The Slovak Republic and Slovenia will join the European Union. This will have a number of effects on the Community Trade Mark (CTM) Regulation and existing Community registrations and applications.
Existing CTM applications and registrations will automatically extend to these territories as of 1 May 2004. This is in accordance with the unitary nature of the CTM. A CTM proprietor need take no action and no fees are payable to benefit from such extension.
The validity of such extended CTMs cannot be cancelled on grounds, whether absolute or relative, which exist only because of the accession of new member states. Thus national rights and national absolute grounds (such as the mark being descriptive in one of the new languages) are not grounds for cancellation nor, subject to the exceptional circumstances noted below, for opposition.
In order to preserve prior national rights, such extended registrations will not be enforceable in the new member state where there is an earlier right or, for example, the mark is descriptive or is contrary to public policy or morality.
Also, an exceptional opposition right has been introduced in an attempt to prevent too many last minute CTM filings being made to avoid earlier national rights. It has therefore been agreed that for CTM applications filed in the six months prior to enlargement, i.e. from 1 November 2003 onwards, the holders of rights in the new member states will be able to oppose such applications through an exceptional opposition right.
Of course for CTM applications filed after May 2004, objections can be raised on the basis of national rights and absolute grounds arising in the new member states.