Regulation outlining opposition procedure enters into force
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Further to the amendments to the Bulgarian Law on Marks and Geographical Indications, which introduced opposition proceedings, the regulation outlining the procedure for drafting, submitting and examining opposition notices was published in the Official Gazette No 43 and entered into force on June 11 2011.
The regulation stipulates that opposition proceedings may be initiated after an opposition notice has been filed with the Bulgarian Patent Office and the opposition fee has been paid. The Opposition Division Committee then examines the opposition and checks whether the notice:
- is admissible; and
- complies with the formal requirements set out in the regulation.
If the notice is found to be inadmissible due to absolute deficiencies (ie, deficiencies that cannot be remedied after the expiration of the opposition period), the committee notifies the opponent that opposition proceedings cannot be initiated. If the committee determines that the opposition is inadmissible due to relative deficiencies (ie, deficiencies that can be remedied after the expiration of the opposition period), the committee invites the opponent to remedy the deficiency within a non-extendable period of two months.
If the notice of opposition is found to be admissible, the committee notifies the trademark applicant and the opponent about the start of the opposition proceedings. The proceedings begin with a three-month cooling-off period, during which the parties can reach an agreement. Upon the parties’ request, the cooling-off period can be extended twice for a period of three months (ie, it can last for a total of nine months).
Once the cooling-off period has expired, the adversarial part of the proceedings begins. At this stage, the trademark applicant is invited to submit a reply to the opposition within two months. If no response is filed, the committee renders a decision based on the evidence filed in support of the opposition. If a reply has been filed, it is then sent to the opponent, who has one month to submit an observation. Finally, the applicant is given an opportunity to comment on the opponent's observation, provided that it contains new arguments or evidence.
In the reply to the opposition notice, the applicant may challenge the validity of the opponent’s trademark by filing a request for proof of use. In such a case, the opponent has two months to furnish proof that the earlier trademark has been put to genuine use or that there are legitimate reasons for non-use. If no evidence is filed, or if the evidence is found to be insufficient, the opposition is rejected.
The committee must render a decision on the opposition within six months of the completion of the exchange of correspondence between the parties.
Ana Dremsizova, PETOŠEVIC, Sofia
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