13 September 2013

The Catalan Way (and IP)

Wednesday (11 September 2013) marked an impressive show of support for the independence of Catalonia, currently an autonomous part of Spain, when a human chain, the Catalan Way, spread for 400km/250 miles.

Its inspiration was drawn from the Baltic Way of 1989 which preceded the re-establishment of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as independent countries from their occupation by the Soviet Union.

Catalonia is one of the wealthier parts of Spain and the current economic woes of the Eurozone have increased desire for independence. Football has widely been an outlet for Catalan pride with the world famous FC Barcelona, as well as the Catalonia national team (although unrecognised by FIFA or UEFA)

With a population of over 7 million it would be larger than some existing EU member states, and this is just the population of the current autonomous community; it excludes that of the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands which are also part of the Països Catalans within Spain. (Perhaps of note is that OHIM's home of Alicante is in the Valencian Community although this is a predominantly Spanish-speaking city.)

The Catalan language is also more widely spoken than some other national languages within the EU.

I have previously blogged on Scotland and if she votes for independence in 2014 what the impact could be on trade mark rights. Should the Catalans involved in this recent human chain get their way and Catalonia becomes independent then I would envisage a similar approach.

1. Community Trade Marks would automatically cover Catalonia (this presumes Catalonia is automatically accepted as a new member of the EU).
2. Spanish National Trade Marks would automatically cover Catalonia or they would require revalidation locally in Catalonia. However, the latter option would penalise local companies who have previously needed to register in Madrid when their trade mark is only really needed on a local basis.
3. International Registrations designating the European Community would automatically cover Catalonia (this presumes Catalonia is automatically accepted as a new member of the EU).
4. International Registrations designating Spain would need to have Continuation of Effects applications filed. There would be some small costs involved to cover WIPO's administration.

Back in 2006 - some time before this recent wave of ever expanding TLDs - the .cat TLD came into play for the Catalan-speaking community. However, it would be likely that a new two-letter ccTLD would be introduced for Catalonia, should it become independent.

As someone that grew up when there was the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia and then saw them disintegrate, I have had an avid interest in new countries.

However, independence - perhaps more so when you're a part of the "EU Club" anyway - might not always be the answer. Denmark and the Netherlands have developed a different approach. Taking Denmark as an example, the Kingdom of Denmark includes Denmark proper, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. It's arguable that this set up gives independence in many respects (e.g. neither the Faroes or Greenland are, through choice, part of the EU, unlike Denmark proper) whilst being able to share some of the infrastructure. In this instance trade mark registrations granted by the Danish Patent and Trademark Office cover the Faroe Islands and Greenland, and there is no provision to register locally in either the Faroe Islands or Greenland.

This is a world that is becoming smaller in many respects and in my field of trade marks the Madrid Protocol is a clear indication of this. Yet we may have to take into account more and more countries as desires for self determination can be realised.