If you’ve received a notification of provisional refusal in response to your international trademark application from the French or Spanish national trademark offices, here you will discover what the procedures are to go against such a notification and fight to protect your IP in Spain and France.
Provisional Refusals France
In the French trademark system, the key legislative documents to keep in mind are the French IP Code and Law 2007-1544. The national French IP Office is the INPI. Once the INPI has received your application from the WIPO, it will take 6 weeks before it is published in the French Trademark Gazette. From this date, any pre-existing French trademark holder will be able to file an opposition with the Director General of the INPI.
Notice of Opposition
At this point, the applicant will be notified of the opposition, its grounds, and will be granted a time period within which to respond to the opposition. This counterstatement shall be your official argument against the opposition, so make sure that your arguments are bulletproof so that they stand up well before the INPI.
Here is a good point to highlight the importance of sticking to the deadlines placed upon you by either the INPI or the French/European trademark regulations. Often, such deadlines are non-extendable, so if you do not file the correct paperwork in the time given, your application (or opposition) will fail.
From the date of filing the opposition, the INPI must, by law, make a decision and notify the parties within 6 months. If no decision has been made, then the opposition will be rejected and the trademark application successful. This 6-month time period may be suspended if one of three situations arises:
- The INPI finds that the supposedly pre-existing French trademark was never registered
- One of the parties requests a suspension due to a claim pending before the courts
- Both parties request a suspension of three months, which can be renewed if both parties agree. This would often be due to the parties attempting to reconcile their differences and come to some sort of amicable agreement.
The first decision received will be a draft decision – technically a preliminary assessment of the matter – which then gives both parties the chance to submit their observations and further argue their claims within one month of receiving the draft decision. However, this opportunity to further argue your point, if the INPI has made an unfavourable draft decision, is in practice rarely effective in overturning the INPI’s initial decision.
Once the final decision has been made, there is a strict time period allowed for either party to appeal this decision to the French appellate courts. For French nationals, this time period is 1 month; for non-French nationals, this time period is 3 months. This is a crucial stage for the losing party, and it is their last real chance at protecting their IP in France.
It should be well noted that, in order to convince a judge that the INPI came to the wrong conclusions in their decision, your legal arguments must be very well-structured and coherent. Unless you are an experienced IP specialist, then it would be wise to hire a trustworthy IP lawyer to take you through the proceedings.
Provisional Refusals Spain
As one of the top European economies, with various strong industries such as tourism, it is a common territory to file for trademark protection. In Spain, the relevant legislation to be aware of is the Spanish Trademark Law, and the national IP office is the OEPM.
Notice of Opposition
Once an application has passed through the OEPM and has been published in the Official IP Bulletin, any pre-existing Spanish TM holder will have 2 months to file an opposition before the OEPM. Such an opposition will have to be started by filling out Model 4104, where the opponents case will be made as to why the applicant’s trademark would infringe on his pre-existing IP right. An important feature of the opposition in Spain is ability to attach a file to the Model in which you may exhaustively reason your claim. There is no limit on space or how many words may be used, therefore an experienced IP lawyer would be very useful at this stage of the trademark opposition proceedings. However, the OEPM does recommend not to be too repetitive or unclear in this file – if you go over the top, it could do more harm than good.
There are certain requirements in order for the opposition filing to be accepted by the OEPM found in article 26 of Royal Decree 1937/2004. If the filing has some sort of irregularity, don’t worry – you will be granted 10 days to remedy any defect and carry on with the opposition proceedings.
The applicant, once having received the opposition filing, will then have 2 months to file a counterstatement to the opposition, in which they will do the same as the opponent, reasoning why their Spanish trademark should be registered. Here, it is important for the applicant to understand that they have the right to withdraw or alter their application at any time. This would be wise in the case that a pre-existing Spanish trademark provides certain goods and services that seem to overlap with the goods and services described in the initial trademark application. If the applicant believes that they can commercially operate perfectly fine under a slightly different definition of the goods and services they provide, then that would be ideal. Again, the same criteria apply as for the initial opposition filing – that it be clear and concise, without repeating your arguments for the sake of filling out the form in an extensive manner. Once filed, the OEPM will then examine the claims and make a final decision, which will be notified to the parties.
This, however, is not necessarily the end of the road. If the final decision of the OEPM is unfavorable to your claim, you may still appeal against this to the Contentious-Administrative courts within a period of 1 month from the publication of the result in the Official IP Bulletin.
It must be stressed that throughout the trademark opposition proceedings, legal clarity and coherence in your arguments are of utmost importance, whether arguing before the OEPM or the Contentious-Administrative courts. Additionally, if you are to convince a judge that the OEPM made a mistake, the legal arguments must be very strong. Unless you have a vast experience in IP law and trademark protection, then it is highly recommended to make use of a specialist IP lawyer.Read More
If you are looking to designate Brazil or Germany in your international trademark application, this article is perfect for you. Here, we shall cover the procedure relating to notification of provisional refusal by a pre-registered Brazilian or German TM holder who believes that your international trademark application would infringe on their pre-existing IP rights.
Here, we will go over the procedures to go against such a notification and fight to protect your IP in Brazil and Germany.
Provisional Refusals Brazil
Brazil recently joined the Madrid Protocol in 2019, making it one of the newest members of the Madrid Union. In the Brazilian legal framework, the key law to be aware of is the Law on Industrial Property (9,279/1996), and the national TM office is the Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office (BPTO).
It should be noted that due to the nature of Brazil’s accession to the Madrid Protocol, if you already have an international trademark then you will not be able to simply designate Brazil as a new territory in which their brand is protected, but instead you will have to file a separate international registration from the beginning through the WIPO or choose to file a national application through the BPTO.
Therefore, if you have manoeuvred this system and have submitted your international trademark application, then that’s the first obstacle over and done with.
Brazilian IP Gazette
Once the BPTO has received the application, it will be published in their national bulletin, the Brazilian IP Gazette. From this date, any third party may file an opposition against the application within 60 days. The notice of opposition will then be published in the Brazilian IP Gazette around 60-90 days after the filing of the opposition.
At this point, all applicants should be aware that, unlike other members of the Madrid Union, Brazil does not publish any notice of opposition through WIPO channels – they will only be published on the Brazilian IP Gazette. Therefore, all applicants should be aware of the need to monitor the updates on the Gazette throughout the duration of the application procedure – we offer this service free of charge with any international trademark application.
The trademark applicant then has 60 days from the date of the publication of the notice of opposition to reply and reinforce their claim. Once submitted, the BPTO will examine the entire application, including any oppositions and counter statements to oppositions, and will publish a decision within 12-18 months. This is unlike many signatories to the Madrid Protocol, given that the BPTO does not make independent decisions specifically regarding oppositions. They take the application as a whole, including oppositions, and carry out a full analysis of the trademark application.
If the final outcome is unfavourable, it is good to know that all BPTO decisions are subject to appeal. Any party to the proceedings may make an appeal to the President of the BPTO within 60 days of publication of the decision in the Gazette. The President will then look over the application once more and within 6-8 months will give a decision on the appeal. This is a final decision and puts an end to the administrative proceedings.
If you need help with a trademark application or any other IP matter in Brazil, we’d love to help you out.
Provisional Refusals Germany
Germany is one of the most popular countries in Europe for trademark applications and has a similar procedure for provisional refusals under the Madrid Protocol as many of its European neighbors. The relevant national law is the Trade Mark Act, and the national TM office is the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMO).
German Trade Mark Journal
Once the application has been received by the DPMO, it will be published in the German Trade Mark Journal, from which date any preregistered TM holder will have 3 months to file an opposition (Form W 7202) and pay the corresponding fees – €250 plus €50 per extra opposing sign.
Once initiated, trademark opposition proceedings in Germany tend to be documentary proceedings consisting of one or two rounds of submissions from both parties, during which the opponent and applicant will make their claims, which if they are to have a strong chance of succeeding, must be well-structured and based on coherent legal arguments – these submissions ought to be redacted and revised by an experienced IP lawyer. Usually, there are no oral hearings at any stage of the opposition proceedings.
At the request of both parties, the DPMO will grant a cooling-off period, similar to the EUIPO in their provisional refusal proceedings, with a duration of 2 months in which the parties may attempt to come to an amicable settlement regarding their trademark dispute. If unsuccessful, the documentary rounds shall continue and the DPMO will give a decision within 12-18 months.
If the final decision of the DPMO ends up being unfavourable, it is still possible to make an appeal to the Federal Patent Court. Such an appeal must be filed in writing with the DPMO within 1 month of the publication of the decision. In this appeals process, a Board of Appeal shall be established that will dictate the proceedings.
The decision from this Board shall be final, unless in said final decision the Board allows for appeal on points of law. If you are able to make an appeal based on points of law, then you may have the chance to appeal to the Federal Court of Justice, however, this is under very limited circumstances – see Section 83 of the Trade Mark Act. Any decision from the Federal Court will be final and no further appeals would be permitted.
Due to the documentary nature of the German provisional refusal proceedings, it would be highly recommended to make good use of an experienced IP lawyer to assist you in the drafting of your submissions to the DPMO. If you have any doubts or would like assistance in any IP-related matter, let us know, and we can get the ball rolling right away.Read More
After jumping through all the hoops to register your international trademark, filing the application, and following various quick guides on how to do so, it can be quite concerning to receive a notification of provisional refusal, stating that your trademark, your brand, has hit an obstacle in being protected.
What can I do to protect my IP now? you might be thinking. In this article, we will go over what a provisional refusal is, why it was most likely issued, and what you can do to oppose it and protect your brand.
International TM Registration Recap
The first thing to remember is the process of international trademark registration. After being initially approved by the WIPO, the notification is then sent out to all national trademark offices belonging to Contracting Parties of the Madrid Protocol. The national offices now have up to 12 months to grant or refuse protection (18 months in certain cases). If they refuse, they must send a Notification of Provisional Refusal to the WIPO, where you will soon after receiving news of it through the Madrid Monitor. It will probably look something like this.
It is important to note that it is not a final decision, but instead, the Office must indicate the reasons for why it could likely get refused. This could be from either a negative examination by the Office itself or due to an opposition from a third party. Such an opposition will most likely be from a local company, a preregistered TM holder, that believes that your trademark is infringing upon theirs, or is too similar to their own and could get confused.
It should be noted that this is a provisional refusal by opposition, which is different from an ex officio refusal, which occurs when the national office finds a fault in the application and decides to refuse protection of their own accord.
What can I do against a provisional refusal?
The next step will depend upon which country’s IP office put forward the provisional refusal. Each national office has its own specific procedure to deal with the matter.
All the necessary details should be included in the notification of provisional refusal you received. These details would likely include the grounds for the provisional refusal, the time period in which you must reply to the refusal and request a review/appeal, to whom you should direct such reply, and if you need to hire a local attorney in that country to assist you with the procedure.
If your request for review and appeal is accepted by the national IP office, you will likely have your trademark application compared with an already existing trademark registered nationally in that country.
Depending on what exactly you are wanting to register, the national IP office will compare the shapes, colors, words, and letters included, as well as the similarity of the service/good in relation to the pre-existing trademark, also taking into account the sectorial similarities if any exist. This process may take many months to come to its conclusion, however, every national office has its own rules and deadlines, so you should be very aware of the specific situation of every country.
To learn more about a specific country’s provisional refusal rules and procedures, take a look at our country-by-country guide that will take you through everything you need to know. EU & UK Guide. China & USA Guide. Brazil & Germany Spain & France.
Replying to a provisional refusal
Replying to a provisional refusal will often mean that you will have to convince the national office or a court of appeals why your trademark is sufficiently different from an already existing one in order to be granted protection of your IP. To do so effectively requires not only a strong argument regarding the differentiation of the trademark but also a comprehensive understanding of the legislation and the case-law of that country. Therefore, it is highly recommended that if you receive a notification of provisional refusal regarding your international trademark registration, that you should hire an experienced IP lawyer to help you in the process.
If you are wanting to reply to a provisional refusal, we have vast experience in these procedures and would be more than happy to explain the situation to you and see how we could help out. Contact us!Read More