The implications of Serbia’s trademark law amendment

The implications of Serbia's trademark law amendment

In February 2020, Serbia’s trademark laws were changed to include a procedure for the opposition, combining the prior method of ex officio review for all grounds for denial with the availability of oppositions. It is not yet obvious whether trademark owners or consumers will actually benefit from this.

In just a few jurisdictions where new applications can be opposed, letters of consent are acceptable. By default, submitting an opposition demonstrates that the owner of the current trademark does not believe that the two can coexist and that the owner of the new application is violating their rights.

According to the 2020 amendment, all applications are still initially examined ex officio by the Serbian IP Office for both absolute and relative grounds for refusal before being made public for opposition procedures.

When the office establishes relative grounds through an official act as a hindrance to registration, it leaves space for alternative feasible options (eg, a motion for cancellation due to non-use or the submission of a letter of consent). The process of acquiring such a letter can be carried out by the trademark applicant or by a local attorney, as they are in the best position to provide advice on the content, form, and translation requirements (for example, letters of consent should always be provided on company letterhead and supplied with the company seal/stamp).

Letters of consent ought to be fully valid if they are used in accordance with the provisions of the law. While their owners have no concerns, the Serbian IP Office actually gives the concept of consumer protection a lot more weight by prohibiting the coexistence of comparable trademarks on the market in order to minimize any misunderstanding. The same principle is applied to identical marks, according to which they cannot coexist even when the owner is the same entity or a member of the same corporate structure. However, this principle is supported by a somewhat different logic.

Although it is important and should always be taken into account, should consumer protection always take precedence? especially in light of the fact that the legislation governing trademarks does not call for a standard as high as the one used by the office. The best approach for the owners of the rights to ensure that their good or service reaches the intended customer is to reduce market uncertainty. Since this is the core of their operations, it is reasonable to believe that the owners of trademarks will take all reasonable measures to prevent customer misunderstanding in the marketplace.

Finding a balance between the potential for consumer misunderstanding in the marketplace and harmonious trademark coexistence is currently up to the office.

You can find the list of Serbia IP Firms here.

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