Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Eleni Lappa, an IP and Trademark attorney. She is a partner with the Drakopoulos Law Firm, which has 3 international offices in Greece, Romania and Albania.
The practical experience of working in 3 jurisdictions for all sorts of IP matters including brand protection reveals a lot in terms of how a pre-merging (Albania), emerging (Romania) and “emerged” market (Greece) apply in each respective jurisdiction, equivalent general principles deriving from the same international treaties.
The results of such an observation are quite surprising: one would assume that the less “advanced” a market, the less sophisticated it would be in terms of practical brand protection. Not so, entirely. Firstly, the modus operandi of the respective trademark offices where all relevant information derives from, is quite different. Albania, though not yet a member of the EU (and the CTM System) has made great improvement in maintaining trademark rights. Our Firm’s local partners have been appointed to serve in the statutory committee instituted by the ALPTO (Albanian Trademark and Patent Office) assigned with the task of upgrading the national trademark system (in itself, a step forward) and we therefore know from the inside that plans are underway so that the already computerized – to a workable level – database will soon be upgraded even further and information will be available even faster, easier and more reliably than now. In Romania, the local patent and trademark office (OSIM) also has a satisfactory – to a point – database (even an online search tool which however requires the insertion of a certification code each time and that certainly slows down the process) however, it still needs a visit in-person (we make a point of doing this via our local colleagues just to be on the safe side). As for Greece, the online database is risky to use on its own and an in-person visit has to be in the schedule in order for any type of information to be offered with certainty.
As for jurisprudence, Greece in comparison to Romania and Albania is, as one might expect, a much more elaborate jurisdiction in terms of case-law (though Greece is a civil code, non-common law jurisdiction, formally speaking at least). Yet, though many more issues and details of issues have been examined and decided even at highest level in Greece (by the highest civil court – Areios Pagos for infringements – or the highest administrative court – Council of State – for trademark actions) the availability of such decisions, due to some obscure data protection provisions applicable in Greek jurisdiction is many times dependent upon the experience with or personal involvement of a trademark lawyer in a particular matter – whereas anyone else may be able to find a decision that would state some interesting principles without including the marks under judicial review for example (especially when they coincide with the company name of one of the adversaries). Albania may have fewer decisions to offer and yet they are building up and are easier to find while Romania already has a substantive database that many times help us (when representing a client present in all 3 jurisdictions) coordinate and draw a basic course of action that would be as risk-free as possible in all 3 countries and would ensure the business goals of the client are met.
In sum, though Greece (its economy in particular) has been under the microscope from the end of 2009 until present, much more so than Romania and Albania, it seems that Greece needs to also pay attention to the availability of tools for brand protection (administrative and judicial) since the desired development and growth usually stems from the presence of global players locally that would feel safe in the protection of their brands locally. Some steps have already been taken, especially with a recent update of administrative courts procedure for expediting and simplifying the process, more should be done towards that direction, for even more positive results and efficiency.
Eleni Lappa is a partner at the Drakopoulos Law Firm which has 3 international locations; Greece, Albania & Romania. For more information on her or her practice please feel free to contact the practice directly via their website.