Intellectual Property Rights Protection in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, the official language is the Bulgarian language and the Cyrillic alphabet is used.
Trademarks registered nationally, international trademarks for which Bulgaria is a designated country and Trademarks of the European Union operate on the territory of Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian trademark registration system is oppositional. Marks applied for must meet the absolute grounds for trademark registration. These criteria in Bulgaria are harmonized with European legislation. After the publication, within three months, an objection can be made to the submitted applications. Owners of unregistered trademarks can also file an opposition. Decisions on objections are made by a panel of opposition experts. Their decisions are subject to appeal to the Disputes Department. These decisions are subject to judicial review by the Sofia City Administrative Court. Forensic technical expertise is admissible in this proceeding. The control of this decision is carried out by a three-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court. Objections on absolute grounds can be filed within a two-month period. Registration is received up to two weeks after the deadline for objections.
The Bulgarian trademark can be owned by one natural or legal person, as well as be jointly owned by natural and/or legal persons.
The term of trademark protection in Bulgaria is 10 years. In the last year of the validity of the trademark, the term of protection can be renewed for another 10-year period.
In the event of a change in the circumstances of the holder/applicant, the same must be promptly entered in the state register – change of legal form of the holder, change of address, change of owner, entry or deletion of co-owner and others.
According to the international trademark, the Bulgarian Patent Office issues refusals. To overcome them, local industrial property representatives should be hired. On average, the Bulgarian expertise issues 59 preliminary refusals per year.
The protection of the rights to a registered trademark can be carried out by administrative, civil and/or criminal procedure. A criminal decree for violation of rights is issued by the chairman of the Patent Office of Bulgaria. Civil claims for violated rights are submitted to the Sofia City Court. This court is the competent European court for establishing infringements of EU trade mark rights. Criminal prosecution is carried out in accordance with the Criminal Code. Reports have been filed with the police and the prosecutor’s office.
The use of trademarks and the implementation of unfair competition is established by the Commission for the Protection of Competition. The control over these decisions is assigned to the Administrative Court – Sofia Region and the appeal proceedings before a three-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court.
Border Measures
At the borders of Bulgaria, border control is carried out in connection with trademark rights. Bulgaria has a land border with Turkey, Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia and Romania. Control of Air Customs and Black Sea Customs and control of goods entering the transport corridor along the Danube River is carried out.
Applicants for trademarks in Bulgaria, and especially those from the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries, are recommended to register their trademarks in Cyrillic as well. The combined approach used in the past is inefficient and difficult to apply in cases of similarity, opposition and infringement.
Well-known brands are declared by court order. Bulgaria has accepted the WIPO’s recommendations in this area. IPConsulting leads the procedure for declaring the 3M Well-known brand in Bulgaria.
Geographical Indications
Geographical indications are registered nationally. Accordingly, geographical indications are not registered for agricultural products and foods; for spirits and flavored wine products. Excluded products are registered at the European level by the European Commission.
In the European Union there are: protected designations of origin for food and wines; Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for Craft and Industrial Products (CIGIR), Food and Wine; and geographical indication (GI) for spirits.
Registered geographical indications cannot be converted into generic names while they are used with legal protection.
Inventions in Bulgaria are protected by patents and utility models. The unitary patent is valid on the territory of the country. Bulgaria is a member country of the PCT and the European Patent System. European patents are valid on the territory of Bulgaria for a valid period of time.
The patent protection system is expert, and for the registration of utility models. The validity of the patent is up to 20 years after payment of an annual patent fee. The maintenance fee for utility models is paid in 2 times, within a 10-year validity period.
Patent infringements are dealt with by the Sofia City Court. There is a case law in the country for infringement of patent rights. The court is assisted by forensic experts.
For medicinal products and plant protection preparations, it is possible to issue Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPC).
The certificate is issued if, in Bulgaria, to the data for submitting the application to the Patent Office:
1. the product is protected by an active basic patent;
2. already has a valid marketing authorization as a medicinal product or as a plant protection product in accordance with this EEC Directive;
3. the product is no longer subject to certification;
4. the above authorization is the first authorization to be placed on the market as a medicinal product or as a plant protection product.
The holder of more than one patent for the same product cannot obtain more than one certificate for that product. However, where two or more applications relating to the same product and originating from two or more holders of different patents are pending, the certificate for that product may be issued to each holder of the underlying patent.
Copyright is governed by the Bulgarian Law on Copyright and Related Rights (ZNAP). There is no official (PUBLIC) register for copyright and related rights in Bulgaria. They are unregistered rights (unlike patents, registered designs or trademarks). So there is no formal action to take (no application to submit, forms to complete or fees to pay).
Copyright and related rights take effect as soon as something subject to protection is created and fixed in some way, for example on paper, on film, by sound recording, as an electronic recording on the Internet, etc.
An author is the natural person whose creative efforts have led to the creation of a literary, artistic or scientific work. Until proven otherwise, the person whose name or other identification mark is indicated on the original, copies or specimens of the work and/or on their packaging in the usual way is considered to be the author of the work.
Copyright is protected for the lifetime of the author and seventy years after his death.
Industrial Design
In Bulgaria there is a registration system for the protection of industrial designs. Community designs registered by the EUIPO are valid on the territory of the country. The same applies to unregistered designs in the community.
Bulgaria is a member of the international agreement The Hague Agreement for the Protection of Industrial Designs.
Violations of industrial design rights are dealt with by the Sofia City Court. There is judicial practice in the country on the enforcement of these rights. The court is assisted by forensic experts.
Plant Varieties
Possibility of protection of new varieties of plants – created or discovered and developed varieties of plants of any botanical genus and species, including branch, line, hybrid or rootstock, regardless of the method (artificial or natural) of obtaining them. The country has a national registration regime. All registered European new plant varieties are active on the territory of Bulgaria.
In Bulgaria, new breeds of animals are registered on a national basis – created or discovered and developed breeds, lines and hybrids of farm animals, regardless of the way they were obtained.
In Bulgaria, the Topology of integrated circuits can be protected.
Bulgarian customs perform border controls regarding intellectual property rights – patents, utility models, trademarks and geographical indications, industrial design, copyright and related rights and new plant varieties. The IPConsulting team was part of the first application of border measures regarding new flower varieties and their DNA identification at the EU’s external border.
Bulgarian legislation provides for criminal liability for infringement of intellectual property rights.