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Why Nobody Can Register a Coca Cola Brand, But Anyone Can Register Yours: Revealing the Need for Monitoring Already Registered Trademarks

Hello to our readers and viewers of "Bulgarian entrepreneur" magazine and welcome to today's interview with lawyer Diana Popova, specialist in intellectual property. Attorney Popova, thank you for accepting my invitation for this interview and welcome here with us today.

What role does consulting an intellectual property attorney play as part of the trademark registration process?

I offer my clients a survey about their brand of choice, which consists of three elements. The first is an opinion on the compliance of the brand with the requirements of Art. 11 of the Trademarks and Geographical Indications Act. The second element of the research is a check for the existence of earlier marks similar to the one chosen by the client that overlap in territorial and subject scope. This research is carried out in special databases, is not a Google search and cannot be carried out by a person without the necessary knowledge and experience. The third and most essential part of the survey consists of opinion and recommendations based on the search results. But the lawyer also has a role after the registration of the brand, so that the client can rest assured that no one will register his brand on his behalf.

How do you deal with the challenge if your customer has chosen a brand that already exists in the market?

In my practice, I strive to be completely objective with my clients and give them full information about potential risks. When the merchant has chosen a mark that turns out to be similar to an earlier mark of a third party, we comment on the possibility of filing an opposition. I explain that if this happens, the request will be refused in whole or in part and there is a risk of losing the fees paid. Whether to proceed with the procedure is entirely at the client's risk. To me, it is more important that the client is aware of the risk and makes an informed decision, than to charge a fee for the registration and then an unsalvageable opposition proceeding.

What are the most important steps entrepreneurs should take to protect their brand?

Those entrepreneurs who have not registered their trademark must do so in order to benefit from the protection that Bulgarian and European law offers. My advice is to always use a lawyer, specifically an intellectual property specialist. Most traders have already started to realize the importance of the registered mark and fortunately the applications to the Patent Office are increasing progressively.

Does trademark registration ensure that another person cannot register the same trademark?

Almost no marketer is aware that neither the Patent Office, nor the EUIPO, nor any body in the world (with few exceptions), has an obligation to notify you if someone tries to register your trademark. If you do not monitor the databases of the departments and do not object within three months of publication, the competitor's brand will be registered, and the two brands will exist in parallel. Of course, there is an option to delete the later registered trademark, but it is more complicated and you will already be fighting against a registered trademark, not just an application for one.

This means that if tomorrow I apply for registration of the Coca Cola brand and its owner does not object, the brand will be registered. Of course, exactly with Coca Cola, this would not happen, because the big brands have entire departments, as well as engage law firms in different countries, to monitor the submission of similar requests and react within the deadline. However, the fact is that Bulgarian entrepreneurs do not want such a service en masse. To every client I have worked with to register a brand, I offer the service of "monitoring" their brand. The service is paid on an annual basis and the amounts are not high at all. Monitoring is done once a month, checking all databases for newly received requests for brands similar to the client's brand. If a similar request is detected, we have enough time to react. Interestingly, less than 2% of my clients wanted to use this service. This means that anyone can register their brand, even if they start using it.

What is your vision for the future of intellectual property and trademarks in Bulgaria?

I am happy that the topic of intellectual property is being talked about more and more often. My wish is that clients do not underestimate the participation of a specialist in the trademark registration process, because this is how they receive adequate protection of their rights. The most important thing for trademark owners is to organize the protection of their marks in full, including by performing the tracking of the mark after its registration.

Thank you, lawyer Popova, for the interesting and valuable explanations. Your advice will surely be of great help to our audience of entrepreneurs. We wish the readers and viewers of "Bulgarian entrepreneur" magazine successful branding and protection of their business ideas. See you next time!


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