New legislation to have significant impact on trademarks for alcoholic beverages

Turkey

Law No 6487 on Amendments to Some Laws and Decree Law No 375 have introduced new provisions regarding the consumption, sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages in Turkey. The new legislation was published in the Official Gazette on June 11 2013 and entered into force following its publication. The law introduces various prohibitory provisions aiming at restricting the consumption of alcoholic beverages. This update summarises the changes that are the most relevant to trademarks.

Under the new legislation, the names, brands and other distinctive elements of alcoholic beverages cannot be used on non-alcoholic and similar products. Similarly, the names, brands and other distinctive elements of non-alcoholic and similar products cannot be used on alcoholic beverages. This rule shall not apply to products that are intended for exportation.

The relevant regulations will be issued by the Regulatory Council for Tobacco and Alcohol Markets within two months of the effective date of this provision. This means that the use of alcoholic beverage brands will not be permitted on non-alcoholic products, and vice versa - in other words, brand stretching/brand sharing is explicitly prohibited. Therefore, it is of vital importance that brand owners perform full trademark clearance searches before adopting, filing and using new trademarks. For instance, if a party owns an alcoholic beverage brand X and there is an earlier registered trademark X JEANS for textile products, there will be a regulatory obstacle to the use of the trademark, even it is registered eventually. In such cases, existing trademarks owned by different entities may have to co-exist, and there is no rule as to how the provision will apply.

Arguably, to ensure fairness, acquired rights should be protected under the current legal regulations, and the new provision shall apply to trademarks registered after the effective date of the new legislation.

The new legislation also prohibits every type of advertisement, presentation, campaign, promotion and activity which encourages the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages. However, specialist trade shows and scientific publications and activities can be carried out for the international promotion of alcoholic beverages. The producers, exporters and marketers of alcoholic beverages cannot use the trademarks, symbols or signs of their products in any kind of activities, and cannot support these events and activities.

This also means that, from the publication date of this provision, the advertising and promotion of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in any kind of media. Even event promotions seem to be significantly restricted. This prohibition includes the use of trademarks, logos, slogans and other distinctive signs of alcoholic beverages in advertisements or promotions, regardless of whether the trademark is registered or not - which basically implies a restriction on the use of registered trademarks.

The provisions introduced by the new legislation put owners of alcoholic beverages brands into a difficult position, not only when it comes to adopting and promoting new trademarks, but also in terms of maintaining their business based on existing trademarks. The provisions are very stringent, and it remains to be seen how strictly the law enforcement authorities will implement the rules.  

Uğur Aktekin and Başak Gürbüz, Mehmet Gün & Partners, Istanbul

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