On 1 July 2013 Croatia became the twenty-eighth member state of the European Union, following the signing of the Treaty of Accession on 9 December 2011.

Croatia’s accession is the seventh enlargement of the European Community since it was established in 1957. The consequences of the most recent enlargements of the EU, in May 2004 and January 2007, apply – mutatis mutandis – to the accession of 1 July 2013.
Below we examine what these consequences are.

First, note that Community trademarks and designs registered or applied for before the date of the enlargement or with priority predating the enlargement are automatically extended to the new member state, without needing to submit a formal request or pay additional fees.

The registration of a trademark or design that was pending on the date of accession cannot be refused on grounds of absolute impediments to registration, if those impediments arise solely as a consequence of the accession of a new member state.

Similarly, Community trademarks or designs that were registered or applied for before the accession date cannot be declared invalid if the grounds for invalidity become applicable solely because of the accession of the new member state, or if the prior national right was registered, applied for or acquired in a new member state before the accession date.

This implies that the owner of a prior right valid in Croatia cannot request and obtain the invalidity of the Community trademark or design predating 1 July 2013. However, owners of existing national rights in Croatia on the date of enlargement can prevent a Community trademark or design from being used in Croatia if its date of filing or of priority is earlier than 1 July 2013.

On the other hand, the owner of a Community trademark or design filed before accession cannot contest the national rights existing as of the date of enlargement.

Trademarks and designs existing as of 1 July 2013 will not be translated or published in the Croatian language, but applications can be filed in Croatian from that date.

As already provided for by the Regulation, a refused Community Trademark can be converted to individual national filings in the countries where there are no grounds for refusing it; this is true also for Croatia, where the trademark resulting from a conversion can be filed, allowing the owner to retain the date of filing or of priority of the refused Community Trademark.

Finally, from 1 July 2013 onwards it is possible to claim the preexistence of a prior Croatian right in a Community Trademark, a procedure that enables the owner to continue to enjoy the rights acquired through the national filing solely by maintaining the Community Trademark.

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