Partnering international businesses in Greece
Law no. 2239/1994 is the primary legislation which governs national trademark law in Greece. The exclusive use of a national trademark requires following this law.
A trademark may consist of words, names, illustrations, designs, letters, numbers, sounds, the shape of a product and its packaging. Articles 3 and 4 of law no.2239/1994 provide for the cases where a trademark cannot be accepted for registration. A common case that arises in practice is the prohibition on registering signs, which may be used in trade to indicate the type, quality, attributes, quantity, destination, value, place of origin or for the manufacturing time of the product, the provision of services or other characteristics of the product or services.
In order to register a trademark in Greece, the applicant must file a application in the Register of Trademarks which belongs to the Ministry of Development. The application is submitted with 4 copies and must contain the following: the form concerning the registration of the mark, a printed copy of the latter, the full details of the business concerned, a list of the products or services which it will identify and the appointment of an attorney at law with special powers.
For a trademark to be registered, there must be a meeting of the Administrative Trademark Committee. The committee is also responsible for any trademarks disputes; in some sense, it acts as a first instance court. A mark which is recognized is granted protection for a decade; the date of protection begins the day following its recognition. A follow up application by the proprietor can renew this protection for another decade.
If someone claims that he has prior rights to a trademark, or that a certain trademark cannot be registered and if, in general, he has a legitimate interest, he may file a third party objection against the decision to accept the partial or total registration of the trademark. If another person who has a legitimate interest in the mark becomes aware that the registration process for this trademark has started they may request the refusal or acceptance of the application.
A major limitation of the protection afforded to a trademark is provided by Art.20 (1) of law no. 2239/1994, which restricts the rights conferred by a trademark even though it has been registered. The provision says the right conferred by the trademark does not prevent third parties from using in trade the name, address, as well as indications relating to the nature, quality, destination, value, place of origin, time of manufacturing or other characteristics, as well as the mark itself where this is necessary in order to indicate the destination of the product or service, particularly in case of a replacement part or accessory; such use must be made in accordance with morality.
An example of the above limitation is where a trademark contains a word which refers to a type of product. Thus, if a third party uses such an indication in the course of business, the proprietor of the trademark is not entitled to forbid this party from such use, as long as the third party is using this indication to describe the type of the product in question and not by way of trademark.
The proprietor of the trademark may file an action before the Court of First Instance, seeking prohibition of using, distorting and duplicating the trademark or compensation for damages. The proprietor may also apply for an injunction, in which case he would also have to prove that there are extremely urgent circumstances, which impose immediate effect of measures to secure his claims.