As an accredited expert before the Turkish commercial and IP courts, how have you seen court proceedings change over the course of your career and are there any aspects of the process that you wish were different?
When I started to practise law in the 1990s, regulation and enforcement of IP law were in their infancy – the decree laws on trademarks, designs and patents only came into effect in 1995 following the establishment of the Turkish Patent Office and specialised IP courts. With the entry into force of the new IP Code in early 2017, IP law in Turkey reached a new level. I am proud of personally having contributed to the advancement of knowledge and awareness in IP law and for guiding judges, public prosecutors, examiners and other practitioners in line with international developments. Nevertheless, lengthy court proceedings still pose certain risks to rights holders, as even simple litigation proceedings can last up to 18 months before first-instance courts. I believe that it is crucial to address this issue and to find legal and practical solutions to ensure the finalisation of court proceedings within a reasonable period.
You represent clients on a variety of matters, including pharmaceuticals and life sciences law. What are the biggest challenges that brands currently face in this area – both in Turkey and internationally?
The biggest challenge at present is the global pandemic and its uncertain consequences. As all pharmaceutical and life sciences companies turn their attention to finding an effective cure or vaccine for covid-19, we can expect disputes in this area, particularly with regard to generic drugs and compulsory licensing. In addition, the new IP Code has introduced a few challenging issues in Turkish patent law, namely:
- the post-grant opposition system, which has some inconsistencies with the European Patent Convention;
- the Bolar exemption, which has unclear limits;
- the impact of opposition procedures before the European Patent Office on the enforcement of Turkish validations of European patents; and
- unauthorised use of pharmaceutical trademarks on food supplements.
We are making strenuous efforts to guide our clients, as well as the courts and the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office, through these ambiguities.
What are your top three tips for ensuring long-lasting relationships with clients?
The initial step should be to provide efficient and effective guidance concerning the client’s legal dispute. To accomplish this, it is crucial to understand the needs of the business and to find ways that will serve the client’s best interest. Working as a team is particularly important for achieving this. Second, it is essential to think outside the box. The team, consisting of top-class IP lawyers, should possess a broad understanding of the relevant legislation and be familiar with the most complex legal disputes in various areas of the law. It is also vital to know regulatory mediums and to be able to advise clients in alternative ways, which can often prove faster
As a WIPO domain name dispute resolution panellist, what advice can you give brand owners looking to protect their trademarks online?
Post-coronavirus, the digitalisation process will likely gain considerable momentum. Online marketplaces will progressively replace traditional ones, which will lead to a significant increase in online trademark infringements. Brand owners should invest more in monitoring illegal uses of their trademarks online, not only in respect of domain names but also through various marketplaces selling imitation products. Social media platforms are also particularly important. While they are currently being used extensively by infringers, these platforms provide substantial opportunities for brand owners to raise awareness of their brands and turn them into well-known trademarks, which in turn will significantly boost their value.
Finally, how do you envisage recent global events affecting law firm trademark practices in future?
In line with my answer to the previous question, I expect that we will see a substantial shift in our trademark practice to the online realm. We will address more and more disputes over trademark applications, domain name disputes and illegal use of trademarks online, particularly on social media platforms and online marketplaces. Such a change will create new challenges, including determining the responsible individuals or the production centres of counterfeit goods.
Selma Ünlü graduated with an LLB from Marmara University and has a post-graduate degree from Wolverhampton University. She is a qualified trademark and patent attorney and litigator and is regularly recommended by MIP, World Trademark Review, IAM, WWL, Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. She has been selected as one of the top 250 IP women in the world by MIP since 2017. Ms Ünlü is an accredited court-appointed expert before the IP Court of Istanbul, as well as a UDRP panellist before WIPO and the Czech Arbitration Court. She advises multinationals in portfolio management and litigation regarding all IP rights and data exclusivity, licensing and life sciences regulations.
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