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Industrial Design in Bulgaria

Definition and regulation

Industrial design is the visible appearance of a product or part of a product, produced via industrial or craft manner.

The subject matter concerning the registration of industrial design having effect on the territory of Bulgaria is governed by the national legislation, regulating the registration by the order of the state internal laws, by the acts of the Community law, regulating the registration of the Community designs and by the international treaties where Republic of Bulgaria is a party, regulating the registration of industrial design following the international order.

Basic acts applicable to the three regimes above for registration of industrial designs on the territory of Bulgaria are as follows:
  • Industrial Designs Act (IDA)
  • Council Regulation (EC) No 6/2002 dated 12.12.2001 concerning the industrial design of the Community
  • Hague Agreement concerning international registration of industrial designs

Regimes of registration

In order to have the industrial design protected on the territory of Bulgaria, it must be registered, respectively the registration to have effect on the territory of Bulgaria. The registration is possible via several ways according to above-mentioned three regimes.
In the first place, protection of the industrial design can be ensured via registration under the Bulgarian IDA. The registration procedure is carried out before the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria located in the city of Sofia. Local physical and legal persons, as well as foreign physical and legal persons from States parties to international treaties whereto the Republic of Bulgaria is a party can file an application under this order. Industrial design act is applicable also for foreign physical and legal persons from other States on conditions of reciprocity. Each of those persons may file an application for registration of industrial design either personally or through registered in the Patent office local industrial property representative. Persons not having permanent address or registered office in the Republic of Bulgaria are required to act before the Patent Office through a local industrial property representative.

Secondly, protection of industrial design spreading out its effect on the territory of Bulgaria can be ensured via registration under Council Regulation (EC) 6/2002. The registration procedure is carried out before the Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), located in Alicante, Spain. The application for registration can be filed directly to OHIM or through the Patent Office of Bulgaria which will then forward it to OHIM. Such registration is effective on the whole territory of EU (on the territory of all Member States including Bulgaria).

The third way to have industrial design protected on the territory of Bulgaria is via registration under the order of the international registration system, governed in Hague Agreement concerning international registration of industrial designs. The procedure for registration is set before the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), having its seat in Geneva, Switzerland. The application can be submitted through the Patent Office of any State party of the agreement which will then forward it to the International Office of WIPO or directly to WIPO. In the application Republic of Bulgaria should points itself as a State where the registration will be in force.

Irrespective which of the above regimes for registration is chosen, the rights to the industrial design will be protected on the territory of Bulgaria.

Registration under the national legislation of Bulgaria

The procedure for registration of industrial designs according to the Bulgarian IDA is initiated by filing of application before the Patent Office of Bulgaria. During the last years the Bulgarian legislation regulating this procedure has changed in direction to modernizing and synchronizing with the European and international standards. In the beginning of year 2010 IDA was amended and was adopted the so called “registration system” which is active for registration of Community industrial designs and is effective since 12.02.2011.

In the “registration system” experts do not observe the “novelty” and “originality” of the design. They just observe whether the product presents a design by the sense of IDA and whether it is in conformity with ethics and social order. Advantage of the new system is that it is quicker than the previous system according to which the Patent Office experts observed for the presence for “novelty” of the design. This verification was not effective because it was impossible to be ascertained all products which were “new”.

The procedure for registration in force since 12.02.2011 is carried out as follows:
  • filing up an application for registration and payment of fees;
  • verification of the application’s conformity with the formal requirements (including the payment of fees);
  • carrying out of an investigation;
  • after establishing that the design is registrable, the Patent Office notifies the applicant of the due fees for registration, publication and issuance of protective document in a term of one month after the notification;
  • after payment of the fees a decision is passed for registration of the design and to the applicant is issued a protective document – certificate for registration.

Of course some complications may arise in the procedure such as incorrect drawing up of the application, not paying the fees on time, etc.
After its registration the industrial design is protected for a period of ten years as of the date of the application. The registration can be renewed up to three consecutive times for five-year periods.

The industrial design can be subject of deals, as well as of collaterals and pledges. The proprietor of industrial design can, without transferring his right, to give his consent to a third party to use design. The relations with the third party are settled in a licensing agreement. Transferring of the rights to the industrial design, the allowed collaterals or pledges and the licensing agreements are entered in a State Register. The rights to the design are granted via exclusive and non-exclusive license. The licensor of an exclusive license has no right to grant licenses for the same subject matter to other persons. He has the right to use the design only where this is explicitly agreed.

Protection of the rights to industrial designs

The right to industrial design includes the right of the proprietor of the design to use, to transfer and to prohibit other parties without his consent to copy or use in their commercial activity a design which is under protection. The scope of protection is determined by the image of the registered design and is spread out over any design which does not create on the consumer a different perception.

The protection of the right to industrial design is accomplished via three ways:
  • Civil law protection: it is accomplished by bringing an action before court. The proprietor of the design may claim cessation of the infringement, damages, as well as destruction of the infringing goods because of violation of his rights to the design.
  • Administrative law protection: it is accomplished mainly by the Patent Office and custom authorities. In case of violation of the rights to design the officials from the Patent Office are enabled to impose pecuniary penalties for each violation. The custom authorities co-operate in frustration of importation on the territory of Bulgaria of goods which will violate the right to a design.
  • Criminal law protection: the violation of the rights to design is qualified as a crime according to the Bulgarian legislation and the violator can be punished with an imprisonment.
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